DENVER – The most recent shootings of unarmed black men by police, followed by the tragic slaying of Dallas police officers, has amplified a debate between the “black lives matter” and “all lives matter” sides of the political spectrum.
In Colorado, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn made race an issue before the recent events, declaring in a fiery speech at the April GOP state convention that “all lives matter.”
His comment struck a note with the audience in Colorado Springs, who went on to provide him with an overwhelming 70 percent of the delegate vote. Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner, then beat four other candidates in the June primary with a decisive 38 percent of the vote.
In the wake of recent shootings that have sparked nationwide protests – in which two black men were killed by police last week in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Glenn said “words are hard to find,” and then proceeded with a nearly 900-word statement.
In addition to highlighting the shootings by police, Glenn also underscored Dallas, where five police officers were killed last Thursday by a man who investigators say was motivated by the recent killings of black men by police. Glenn called the events “unspeakably evil.”
“With tragedy like this unfolding around us, we need to hold in our head two distinct thoughts at the same time: You can support and be grateful for your police and at the same time find the actions of certain individual police abhorrent,” Glenn said.
He went on to advance a talking point that has become common within law enforcement circles in recent years: “These few bad apples give good officers a bad name.”
“No single group of people does more to protect black Americans on a daily basis than our police,” Glenn continued.
But protests across the nation – which have resulted in hundreds of arrests – have highlighted a frustration within minority communities, with black Americans expressing fears that police officers are violently targeting them.
“The voice of the black community must be heard, but nonviolent resistance is the only way to achieve the much-needed reforms to end this epidemic of murder of black men, women and children,” read a statement from the Black Legislative Caucus of Colorado.
“For some time now, we’ve witnessed an escalation of police-involved shootings and deaths of African-American men, women and children. These acts concern all of us.”
State lawmakers over the last two legislative sessions passed measures around curbing racial profiling and addressing excessive force in Colorado. The Black Legislative Caucus – including co-chairs Reps. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, and Angela Williams, D-Denver – said the caucus’ work will continue next legislative session.
For his part, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democrat who Glenn hopes to unseat in November, called the Dallas incident “devastating.”
“We must come together to ensure that all our citizens feel safe in their communities and protected by our system of justice,” Bennet said.
In his lengthy statement, Glenn embraced concerns around systemic racism, saying, “We must also admit that racism in America is real, and that there is a reason the relationship between police and the black community is so damaged.”
Glenn drew from his own experiences, recalling being pulled over by the police multiple times for simple things that white people experience less, such as “driving a nice car in the wrong neighborhood,” or having a headlight out.
“Unless you have lived through an experience like this, you cannot understand how violating it feels, or what it does to your ability to feel safe in your city – to trust the people who are supposed to protect you,” Glenn said.
“This is not an attack on our police, it’s just a statement of fact: We cannot have unjust killings happening on our streets without a serious erosion in the confidence of the public.”