PERRY: Racism and pandemic crises brings out the good, the bad and the smugly in Colorado

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Protestors and police, including Chief Vanessa Wilson, center, kneel together for eight minutes and 46 seconds, June 2, 2020, during a peaceful protest against police brutality, following the death of George Floyd. Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado

Crisis brings out not only the best and worst in people, it brings out the best and worst people.

A deadly pandemic, economic calamity and race riots have proven to be a trifecta of biblical proportions for luring a mix of people into public discourse.

No need to keep score on villains and valiants, I did it for you.

Awful: State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, has for a few years polished his reputation for being the far-right antagonist of the State Capitol. Few others elicit the volume of eye rolls as does Williams. If there’s a fight against rights for gays, abortion, or immigrants, Williams is there to fan the flames on a radio talk show, the House floor or on Twitter. As all hell began breaking loose around the country and in Denver after the video-taped murder of George Floyd, Williams played his usual Trump card on Twitter to grow the blaze.

He retweeted Trump’s empty inflammatory threat to send out soldiers to cities where protests were turning into riots.

“You might need to come to #Denver too if @jaredpolis or @MayorHancock don’t shut this riot down. @realDonaldTrump we need your leadership now more than ever.”

Williams is the virtual secretary of the Colorado Trolls for Trump, regularly pandering to a president so inept and dangerous that even loyal conservative columnist George Will now calls for his immediate ouster. Williams’ invitation to bring in the troops netted a Twitter alarm from state Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver, a black Democrat. Herod staked a claim to a place in Denver politics as being passionate for the Black Lives Matter cause and hard against protest violence and opportunists. But she couldn’t let Williams’ call for soldiers on the streets of Downtown to go by without saying that it was a recipe for “murder on the streets of Denver.” Williams came back with a Twitter fist-fight, claiming, “Radical leftist & anti-Christian Legislator Leslie Herod is fanning the flames to incite continued rioting & lawlessness. Shameful. Democrats like Herod love criminals & deliberately endanger the public.”

So helpful. So like Williams.

Worse: The dozens of opportunistic thugs kidnapping the Black Lives Matter cause to vandalize Downtown Denver while pretending to be protesters. These mostly white brat-packs stomped out car windows, lit dumpsters afire and taunted police and legitimate protesters because they’re as insensitive and unintelligent as Trump himself. It seems unlikely this is any kind of an organized effort to be ass-hats. That’s because they would probably find each other as unlikeable as the rest of the community finds them.

Even Worse: Few people, however, are as unlikeable and vile as President Donald Trump. So it was only shocking yet still unsurprising when Trump stammered into the cameras during a Rose Garden self-promotion on Monday. Be teleprompted in that special second-grader way he has that he wanted to send troops into cities to snuff protests. While he blathered, he had police tear gas peaceful protesters near the White House. The abominable Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the gassing so Trump could walk to the historic St. John’s Church nearby and pose with a Bible in his hand. Anyone tuning in live would have been confused about this being a second-rate parody because no real president or politician would ever dream up such a stunt, let alone try and carry it out. It would have been even more confusing because no parody or comedy team would pitch such an idea because it would be just too far-fetched. No scheme nor scam from Trump and his White House goons is beyond imagination these days, even when it’s beyond the pale.

The Absolute Worst: While a handful of die-hard Trump Republicans in Congress tap-danced around Trump’s horrific tear-gassing and poll dance at St. John’s Church, only one member of Congress gave Trump a standing ovation, and, he, cringe, hails from Colorado —  Colorado Springs, that is, which kind of doesn’t count. GOP Congressman Doug Lamborn, whose obsequious behavior and fawning over Trump cannot be explained without using the word “ass-kissing,” was once again “that guy” after El Hefty insulted and infuriated humanity among biblical distortions. “Incredibly powerful moment as @realDonaldTrump walked to St. John’s Church, where every past president since Madison has prayed for the wellbeing of our country. We must come together as a country, and I thank @POTUS for leading the effort to protect law and order.”

I have to thank Lamborn for making us realize that Trump has never, ever, not once, had a powerful moment, and that nothing he has ever done speaks of “leading.”  So there’s that. But the guy who glorifies a man who really doesn’t have neither the mental faculties nor the mental health to understand how malignant he is, isn’t nearly as unsavory as someone like Lamborn, who really digs what Trump is and what he does.

The Good: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has for years made it clear that his idea of leading is, ummm, well, I don’t know. There’s never really been much clear at all about Hancock, other than he is the mayor of Denver. His most notable achievement to date is winning a second term. But he moved past that by successfully walking the tightrope poised above Downtown Denver during protests and riots. Hancock passionately and compellingly spoke about the plight of black Americans and their abuse at the hands of police and white, privileged Americans. At the same time, he pushed hard against lawless rioters and especially those thugs who just wanted a chance to wreck stuff and couldn’t care less about the cause. Hancock has been strong, sensitive and consistent, holding Denver together during one of the most unnerving episodes in its history.

The Great: Denver and Aurora police chiefs Paul Pazen and Vanessa Wilson both deserve gold stars for walking an even more dangerous tightrope above the metro area’s explosive tensions. They both have not only been open to the Black Lives Matter assertion that systemic racism in police departments has to end, they’ve both embraced it and hit the streets with protesters to prove it.

Pazen has made a series of eloquent and honest appeals on camera to those fed up with being afraid of police and opportunists looking to commit crimes for the fun of it. Wilson, who is the temporary Aurora chief but wants the job permanently, has repeatedly looked for new ways to excise this old racism problem from the ranks of her department.

Even Better: Democratic Senate Candidate Andrew Romanoff moved away from his normally measured tone last week to get clench-jawed over what Black Lives Matters is all about. His opponent, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, during a virtual Q&A, stepped in it by saying that Black Lives Matters means “all lives matter” to him. It was a response even ultimate GOP opponent Sen. Cory Gardner would have wisely avoided. Romanoff, who’s a veteran of fighting for the rights of the downtrodden and has the Southern Poverty Law Center creds to prove it, got loud when telling viewers that systemic racism towards blacks, and indifference by privileged whites, was a message Hickenlooper isn’t grasping. At a time in history where that message really needs to be explored, Romanoff set himself apart from his opponents. His immediate service to Colorado: Don’t ever say “all lives matter” again. Ever.

Also Better: Nascent Aurora City Councilperson Curtis Gardner stepped away from the thinning crowd of hard-line conservatives who don’t want us to judge an entire police force just because of a “few bad apples” (and a ton of peaches habitually looking the other way). Curtis stepped to the front of the line this week and said Aurora, and the state, must end the repugnant “qualified immunity” doctrine, which says that officers who act like racist thugs but don’t do it on purpose can’t be sued or prosecuted.

“It’s past time to discuss reforms to our criminal justice system to make sure we protect constitutional rights, maintain the rule of law and value human life,” Gardner wrote in a statement issued Monday night. “Some of these needed reforms include ending qualified immunity, increasing the use of rehabilitation programs & alternatives to incarceration in our prison system, moving away from mandatory minimum prison sentences and more. Changes like these will improve outcomes, save lives and make the job of law enforcement easier.”

Wow, with this message coming from the right, we can’t go wrong.

The Best: Josh Zambrano, Ryan Chambers and Conner Nantkes have been friends for years. The three 20-ish guys grew up in Aurora together. Ryan is black, and while his pals agree they can’t share his fear of his being black being a danger, they understand it, and they hate it. They’ve spent the past several days protesting downtown and came to march June 2 in Aurora. His fear is palpable, Ryan says, to the point that he recently has given up taking walks in his current Highlands Ranch neighborhood, even before the George Floyd murder. Envy doesn’t describe how he feels about his white friends’ not having to be afraid of every police stop, every side-glance at a store, every new professor at school. “I would never want anyone to have to live like this. And besides, “I’m proud of who I am and my black heritage,” he said. He just wants to be considered for who he is, not how others define him. His friends already do that. They’ve watched the world closely and agree entire systems have been created that are inherently racist, especially police departments. “They attract people who are on a power trip,” Zambrano said. That’s got to stop. Nantkes said police departments should better vet police candidates whose most obvious quality is that they strive to be model citizens, not enforcers. The strong arm of the law is the wrong arm of the law. Beyond that, police need better and regular training about how to avoid the pitfalls of racism, equality in the law, and most important, intolerance for racism and brutality by other cops. “Police should strive to be better people, better citizens, not just better cops.” These are your kids talking, Aurora. Better listen.

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