- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock had a message for the thousands of Denver high school students who have staged walk-outs over grand-jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner: Get back to class.

“We heard you. You were effective. It is now clear,” Mr. Hancock told KUSA-TV in Denver. “I’m now going to say that the best place for you is to be in the classroom to finish this semester strong.”

His admonition came as part of an announcement Monday at which he said he will lead a public “conversation” with community and youth leaders Dec. 19 “regarding the state of race relations in Denver.”

“I commend the members of our community who have peacefully expressed their opinions about the outcomes of recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson, MO, and New York City,” Mr. Hancock said in a statement. “I am encouraged by their thoughtfulness and their candor, and I agree that we must keep productive conversations going.”

Students at more than a dozen high schools in Denver and Aurora have exited their classrooms en masse to hold marches and protests since the Staten Island grand jury’s decision Dec. 3 not to indict a New York City police officer who choked to death Mr. Garner during an arrest.

That case and the decision by St. Louis grand jury not to charge the officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown have incited a national uproar over race relations between the black community and police. Both Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner were black, while both of the officers are white.

Mr. Hancock, who is black, addressed the four straight days of school walk-outs after returning to Colorado from a trip to Panama.

“I also encourage parents to speak with your young people at home, have a conversation with them about how they are feeling and encourage them to stay in the classroom now,” Mr. Hancock said.

On Monday, hundreds of students at South High School in Denver staged a walk-out that was supposed to take them to a nearby park and back, but then wound up marching about 4 miles to the state capitol.

During a walk-out last week by East High School students in Denver, four police officers on bikes were hit by a car whose driver lost control as they escorted the students and conducted crowd control. One of the officers was seriously injured and remains hospitalized after several surgeries.

The Denver police union decried the impromptu protest and accused some students of chanting, “Hit him again,” after the officers were struck. Several students have denied this, while the leaders of the walk-out later brought flowers to the officer and his family.

“I am quite offended because I was there. I was 15 feet away from the accident, and that is not at all true. None of that happened,” East student Kyra Kaviani said, referring to the “Hit him again” chants. “Everybody was just screaming and hysterical. I was hysterical after calling 911.”

Still, some in Denver have clearly grown weary of the protests, which have also blocked busy streets during work hours. In a Saturday letter to the Denver Post, Joanie Jones of Denver said several of the East students “enjoyed giving me the ‘finger salute’” as they marched down Colfax Avenue.

“The students were having a wonderful day skipping school. They were yelling, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot,’ plus hurling profanities at the police, taking selfies and having a great time,” Ms. Jones said. “If they think that they were honoring Michael Brown, they were mistaken.”


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