Headlines July 1, 2020

Headlines July 1, 2020

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The Democratic primary for the Boulder County Commissioner District 2 race remains too close to call. According to unofficial election results, Marta Loachamin had a almost 51% of the votes, with state Representative Jonathan Singer at over 49%. More results are expected later this afternoon.

Members of the Sikh community around the country are calling for hate crime charges in the case of a Lakewood store owner who was run over by a driver and repeatedly told to “go back to your country.”

The Denver Post reports that 29 civil rights organizations and interfaith groups signed a letter, urging First Judicial District Attorney Pete Weir investigate the April 29 assault on Lakhwant Singh as a hate crime.

Singh was hospitalized for his injuries.

The suspect, Eric Breemen, faces several charges including two counts of attempted murder in connection with three alleged assaults that took place that day, including the assault on Singh. He has not been charged with a bias-motivated crime.

The letter to the DA was coordinated by the Sikh Coalition and says that Sikhs are disproportionately targeted in bias-related incidents because they wear turbans and maintain unshorn hair (including facial hair) in accordance with their faith. According to the latest FBI Hate Crime Statistics Report, Sikhs are the third-most targeted religious group in the country.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock today announced the creation of outdoor camping areas in the city for those experiencing homelessness.

The Colorado Village Collaborative, which operates the Beloved Community tiny home village in Denver, has proposed a Safe Outdoor Space concept to provide emergency support to people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the city’s website, starting this week, city agencies will focus their efforts on guiding people living in neighborhood encampments scattered throughout downtown to motel rooms, Safe Outdoor Spaces and shelters.

The city has been criticized for ongoing sweeps of homeless encampments during the COVID-19 pandemic despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which say dismantling encampments risks further spread of the coronavirus.

Mayor Hancock also announced his support for a possible November ballot measure that would raise an estimated $40 million a year to support services for people experiencing homelessness.

On Tuesday, the interim chief of police in Aurora, Vanessa Wilson, and other police leadership, answered questions from city council members during a special meeting that had been called by mayor Mike Coffman after riot police broke up a violin vigil held to honor Elijah McClain who died last August at the hands of police.

McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, died after being stopped by Aurora police officers who were responding to a report of a suspicious person.  Police used a now banned chokehold and injected McClain with ketamine.

The nearly four hour meeting began with a clerk reading comments that had been submitted by the public.

Councilmember Juan Marcano was at the violin vigil and said he witnessed riot police clamping down on a peaceful crowd.

“The people in that crowd, and myself, I don’t think any of us felt unsafe until the riot police showed up and then I saw grown adults cry and children run off screaming,” he said.

Wilson defended the show of force at Saturday’s vigil saying there was a small group of protestors armed with rocks who were intent on creating a violent situation and that’s why police responded the way they did.

 

After some recent setbacks in his campaign to win the Democratic nomination for Senate, former governor John Hickenlooper won last night over progressive challenger Andrew Romanoff. Hickenlooper’s margin of victory was decisive winning about 60 percent of the vote as of 9 p.m. Tuesday night.

Hickenlooper reached out to Romanoff’s supporters saying he needs each and every one of them to bring the same passion for the fight ahead that they brought to Romanoff’s campaign, and it will take all of them together to beat Republican incumbent Cory Gardner.

Romanoff told his supporters not to take the defeat as a setback and said he took responsibility for the loss and was not sure what more could have been done.

In Boulder County, the race for the Democratic nomination for commissioner is too close to call.  According to unofficial election results, Marta Loachamin had a bit fewer than 51% of the votes, with state Representative Jonathan Singer at over 49%.

Unofficial results in the race for CU Board of Regents 2nd District Democratic primary showed Callie Rennison winning close to 50% of the vote over two challengers Dave Gross and Aaron Haber.

Meanwhile, on the West Slope, Five-term U.S. Representative Scott Tipton lost his bid for a 6th term to his Republican challenger, Lauren Boebert from Rifle.  Boebert has drawn national attention as politically brash owner of a restaurant called Shooters Grill were she encourages her staff to openly carry weapons. During the campaign, she questioned whether Tipton was conservative enough or had sufficiently supported Trump.

Boebert will face former state lawmaker Diane Mitsch Bush who handily won the Democratic nomination.

Yesterday Governor Jared Polis ordered Colorado bars and nightclubs to close once again to in-person service because of the coronavirus crisis.

The governor cited the fact that the establishments have been blamed for spikes in other states. The order to re-close bars goes into effect in the next 48 hours, Polis said, and will last for 30 days.

The Colorado Sun reports that the decision comes as the state has seen a slight uptick in coronavirus cases over the past two weeks. Polis said that there has been a rise in infections in 9 of the past 14 days.

He also said that protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minnesota are likely another cause of the uptick.

However, a new study by a nationwide research team has found the protests may have slowed the overall spread of the coronavirus in cities with large demonstrations, including Denver.

Andrew Friedson, a professor at CU Denver was one of the authors of the study and told the Colorado Sun he thinks that people who didn’t go to the protests stayed away from the city, with the overall effect being more social distancing.

Meanwhile in Boulder County, there were 22 new COVID-19 cases reported yesterday, and a woman in her eighties died from the disease the first death in the county in two weeks.

It was learned Tuesday evening that since last year the FBI and federal prosecutors have been reviewing Elijah McClain’s death for a potential civil rights investigation.

McClain, was 23 when he died after being stopped by Aurora police officers who were responding to a report of a suspicious person last August. Police used a neck hold to subdue him.

A paramedic injected McClain with ketamine, after which he stopped breathing and no longer had a pulse. He died a few days later after being removed from life support.

The FBI review of the case is ongoing, federal authorities say, and the city of Aurora has been cooperating.

In related news, the Aurora City Council held a public conversation with Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson for more than three hours yesterday, questioning her about the police response to a demonstration held in honor of McClain at the municipal building this past weekend.

The Sentinel reports that Wilson said officers and donned helmets and shields as night fell and proceeded onto the lawn to break up a few dozen “agitators” who police said became increasingly aggressive.

A virtual town hall meeting was held last night to discuss creating a task force to re-imagine policing in Denver. The forum was headed by faith leaders, the Denver Citizen Oversight Board and other community members.

The Denver Post reports that about 300 people filled the Zoom chat room and the spillover crowd joined the conversation on Facebook Live. Some shared their experiences with police and others expressed ideas on how to create a system that better serves the community, especially people of color.

The townhall was briefly hacked by white-supremacist trolls who played racist songs and typed bigoted remarks against Black people.

The Denverite reports that after kicking out the disruptors, organizers kept the meeting going.

Also last evening, Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty guided a virtual conversation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic coupled with calls for police reform.

The Daily Camera reports that Dougherty emphasized his office hears the community’s concerns.

In April, Boulder County took steps that reduced the jail population by more than 50% to prevent a coronavirus outbreak which Dougherty wants to continue.

Congressman Joe Neguse, a Democrat from Lafayette, phoned in to discuss his efforts to construct the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which he thinks will help move the needle of police reform.

In Longmont, City Council members expressed their unanimous support last night for a proposal to close one lane of Main Street in either direction between Third and Sixth avenues, starting sometime in July and possibly lasting through the end of September. One of those citizens who supports the closing said it will help downtown businesses and their employees to recover from the negative effects of the pandemic.