Denver, CO – On March 22, 2016, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a statement that a student painting hung in the Wellington Webb city building had been taken down. The painting in question, which was part of a Denver Public Schools (DPS) display, depicts a police officer wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and pointing a gun at a young black child holding their hands up.
Mayor Hancock, also stated that he, as well as Denver Police Chief Robert White, would be meeting with the student.
The city reported that the student herself requested that the painting be taken down; however, as the Colorado Independent observed,
Because the 10th grader’s identity hasn’t been made public, it’s unclear if removing the painting was, in fact, an act of self-censorship or whether she understandably caved to pressure from city officials who wanted the painting out of sight, pronto, without looking like they strong-armed her.
Emails sent and received by the office of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock from the week of March 21-27 2016, obtained by Unicorn Riot through an open records request, shed new light on this series of events.
Complaints by Denver Police Protective Association (DPPA) president Nick Rogers, as well as Tony Lombard, a consultant and former Denver police officer, appear to have prompted the efforts of the Hancock administration to censor the student’s art and run a damage control PR campaign.
According to Denver 7 there were other controversial pieces of student artwork on display including a depiction of Donald Trump with claws and humans being slaughtered by chickens. The student who created the censored piece calls it the “Re-Contextualization of Goya’s Third of May” and was recreating Michael D’Antuono’s “The Tale of Two Hoodies”.
It seems noteworthy that Mayor Hancock would immediately make a public statement endorsing the censorship of student art critical of the police, given his conspicuous silence on similar issues. The mayor’s office responded to concerns expressed by police about student art within less than a day.
Contrast this with the fatal shooting of unarmed Dion Avila Damon by Denver Police in April 2016, which Mayor Hancock has still not publicly addressed almost a month later.
DPPA president Nick Rogers has repeatedly made the news in recent years for a series of controversial comments denouncing protesters, and was fired in 2011 from his position as a football coach for his abusive behavior towards children.
Tony Lombard currently works as a legislative consultant, has been active with the DPPA, and was a part of DPD’s intelligence unit during the years of the infamous “Denver Spy Files” scandal, when it became public that DPD was illegally spying on hundreds of individuals and organizations.
You can read the emails below, or download the PDF.HancockStudentPaintingEmails
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