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Wilson: Denver police are making the case for defunding on their own

When rioters sieged Denver police headquarters recently, I was a little confused. I wondered if there had been another police killing of a Black man that I was unaware of, and this was the immediate aftermath.  

I expected them to be shouting the name of whoever this victim was, raising awareness, and calling for justice. 

There seemed to be no local catalyst for the riot.  But, then I recalled that on Aug. 19, protesters clashed with police over their sweeps of a homeless enclave, captured on camera by Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca.  

Theo Wilson

In the video, Denver police are seen wielding their batons rather indiscriminately. CdeBaca encouraged the unhoused victims of the violence to sue the city, which got under Mayor Michael Hancock’s skin.  

“I couldn’t believe a public official was doing what I saw on that video,” the mayor said.  

My question to Mayor Hancock is: If the brutalized cannot fight the cops physically, (because they’ll be killed) what other means do they have?  

The short answer is: the legal system, which is all the Councilwoman was advocating they do.  And, if you don’t want folks suing the police, then train the darn cops not to give the people a reason to. Hold the baton-wielding police accountable so the people don’t have to. Problem solved.

But since when does the system hold its own feet to the fire? Answer: When the people set the city ablaze!  

Sadly, the only time you see any momentous traction toward reform is when consequences are exacted that don’t play within the neat boundaries set by those in charge. The list of consequential cultural changes is significant and if we’re honest, the speed of these reforms came through the destructive force wielded by the people.  

Historic riots lead to historic changes, and it’s not nice to say that in public. Neither is killing people who are crying that they can’t breathe, begging for their lives.  

Realistically, even if the homeless victims of police violence try to get legal redress against the city, where would they get the money? Home equity? Savings? Stocks and bonds?  

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They’re already locked out of capitalism, and it takes capital to fight back. Maybe a public fund or a pro bono civil rights attorney could help, but it still takes time to move the case through the bureaucracy. That’s time that the homeless don’t have. 

Councilwoman CdeBaca has publicly called for abolishing the police in Denver, and creating a “Peace Force,” which did not sit well with the mayor and police union. Nick Rogers, the head of the Denver Police Union, obviously doesn’t like that idea. He accused her of “leading the charge to continue the chaos and destruction of our city.” 

He may not like the councilwoman, but she’s still playing within the rules of the game, even if they don’t like her ideas. The rioters, on the other hand, are not so kind.  

The mayor and the police union now face the wrath of the people in these clashes. Whether they are antifa or BLM is irrelevant to me. As a Black man living a Black life, whether they fight on my behalf or not is not the real question. Rather, “who tore the social fabric first” is more relevant. This inquiry begets clarity, for it is not a matter of “right and “wrong,” but cause and effect.  

John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” DPD and the mayor’s permissive stances on police violence have backed the citizenry into the corner; the rest is human nature.  

Blaming CdeBaca won’t solve their problem, and is a transparently dishonest deflection. When public servants don’t actually serve, they tear the social fabric. When it rips, unpredictable things happen. These chaotic elements lay latent in a society until a catalyst sets them ablaze. 

If the police could hold themselves accountable, there would be no cries to defund, or abolish them. No punitive measures have been taken against the cops caught on video violently raiding the homeless encampment. 

I write this as Breonna Taylor’s killers are still not arrested.  Even with her on the cover of “O” magazine and Vanity fair, the soft power of culture can’t seem to get those cops the bare minimum of a jury trial.  

Jacob Blake fights for his life after seven shots to the back. Had the shooting not been on video, he’d be just another dead Black man at the hands of the cops. 

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The people are watching, and they’re at the end of their rope with corrupt law enforcement and their enablers. CdeBaca doesn’t need to make the case for defunding the cops because they’re making it themselves.  

I have yet to find one police report that matches a violent incident with cops when it’s caught on camera. It’s called integrity, and instead of blaming Candi CdeBaca for having some, public servants should follow her example.


Theo Wilson is a poet, speaker, activist and CNN contributor. Learn more about him at TheoWilson.net.


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