AURORA | It was standing room only Monday evening in the Aurora City Council chambers, where a new mayor and council members were slated to be sworn in, and begin the regular meeting.
Some of the audience stood for invocations. Some “took a knee,” emulating a public move by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, which created a national controversy. Some, like Andrea Chavez, stayed seated.
Andrea Chavez said that’s when she heard a woman sitting behind her mutter a profane slur about “Mexicans.”
People in the chamber later identified the woman who allegedly made the comment as Polly Page, a former Aurora City Councilwoman, Arapahoe County Commissioner and state public utilities commissioner.
Page, who currently sits on the Aurora Oil and Gas Advisory Committee, did not return repeated calls for comment. In a video posted on Facebook following Page out of the meeting, she turns and tells a friend of Chavez that she did not use “that word,” but it’s unclear what she meant.
The incident is the latest in a string of tense, politicized disruptions, skirmishes and outright verbal brawls during Aurora City Council meetings. Much of the polarization stems from police-involved deaths and a local ICE immigrant detention center.
Chavez, who said she and a friend were able to find two empty seats in the crowd, sat during the mayor’s prayer, the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Chavez raised a fist.
“There is a reason I don’t stand for the pledge. People are not treated fairly in this country, including my people, including people like my son who are black,” Chavez later said, addressing the city council members, during public comment. Others who were near Chavez also spoke out during public comment about the alleged comments.
After asking the woman if she was talking to Chavez, Chavez said she informed the woman she’s Native American.
“Well you aren’t acting like it,” Page allegedly told Chavez. Friends of Chavez said they heard Page make the comment, according to a video posted on social media.
Chavez said she posted the experience on her personal Facebook page. Many people who were also present for the meeting took notice and started questioning Page.
When public comment started, Page reportedly left the chamber. Two of Chavez’s friends, white women, confronted Page and filmed the encounter.
“(You said) that she’s not acting like a Native American,” said the woman confronting Page. “Yes, we all heard it. Every one saw it.”
Page shook her head and then locked arms with an Aurora police officer outside of the chamber.
“She’s been harassing a friend of mine,” the woman told the officer. “She called her a f****** Mexican.”
Page walked off, turned around and appears to deny using “that word.”
Chavez stayed in the chamber while the video was being filmed. Chavez told the Sentinel her friends told her to stay there.
“It shouldn’t be my fight, when she (Page) was confronted, I was very appreciative of my allies. They said ‘no, we’ll handle it. You stay here,'” Chavez said, adding that she believes had she confronted Page outside the chamber she may have been arrested because of her skin color.
Chavez, who works with nonprofit group Sanctuary For All and Abolish ICE Denver, has come to a handful of Aurora City Council meetings, though she lives in Denver.
“I just really long for a day when people can treat people as human beings and not basically pieces of trash,” Chavez said. “She obviously felt some sort of way about Mexicans.”
Chavez said her father is an immigrant and her mother is Native American.
At the end of the meeting, nearly all city council members addressed the allegation of racism that evening, which several people mentioned during their three minutes at the podium for public comment.
The councilors condemned acts of racism, many saying it had no place in or out of the chamber.