Denver Students Organize Sit-in for Black Lives Lost to Police Violence

Denver, CO – On the evening of April 23, 2021, three high school seniors held an overnight sit-in outside the Colorado State Capitol to raise awareness around Black lives lost to police violenceβ€”most specifically 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant.

One of the students, Ashira Campbell, told Unicorn Riot that another reason her and her two friends organized the sit-in was to highlight Black women: “Media fails to put focus on the deaths caused by police that are of Black women.”

In 2014, the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) created the #SayHerName campaign to bring “awareness to the often invisible names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence.”

Since 2015, 247 women have been fatally shot by police, and 48 of them (nearly 20%) were Black women.

Aariyah Johnson, one of the high school seniors, shared why she does this activism work:

“I continue to do this for my siblings and my family because I want toβ€”in the future, my future familyβ€”I want it to be safe, and I wanna feel like everything’s gonna be alright and not be worried if they’re gonna come home. I just don’t wanna see my family or anybody close to me or important to me be the next hashtag.”

The third student, Rahma Ahmed, added that, “This made me and the girls feel as if like now we’re invincible. We went through this, we really slept out here in the Capitol in 32 degree weather. So I want the police officers out there to know that if we can do this, we can do anything; and I want them to stay afraid.”

The students also spoke with us about the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Campbell said how she didn’t watch much of the trial because it was traumatizing, but she did see the verdict being read. She said that “justice was not served, because George Floyd is dead.”

“That whole system was broken from the day one. There was no honor to that badge . . . there is no honoring anything. That whole system is filled with white supremacy and injustice to people of color. So when they say ‘honoring the badge’ there is nothing to honor except the killings of our people.”

Rahma Ahmed
Image showing the progression of police uniforms and badges in the United States.

Ahmed touched upon how 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was killed by police the same day as the verdict reading. Bryant was having a scuffle with other young women outside her foster home in Columbus, OH. Instead of attempting to deescalate the situation, or use less-lethal force, Officer Nicholas Reardon shot Bryant multiple times. Reardon was 23 years old and had worked for the Columbus Police Department for only 16 months at the time he killed Bryant.

Reardon is on administrative leave pending the investigation into Ma’Khia Bryant’s death.

“I just want to know what exactly do they believe that they’re honoring, like serving the people? Protecting the people? The only thing that they serve is fear to people of color constantly on a day-to-day basis cause we feel like we can’t even exist anymore without having the threat of dying, we can’t breathe, we can’t do anything.”

Rahma Ahmed

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