Archive | March, 1969

Chicano students walk out of school, clash with police

21 Mar

Riots continue for two days

They suffered years of segregation in Denver Public Schools, and endured racist remarks and what seemed a never-ending inequality for educational opportunity.

Then, on March 19, 1969, a group of 150 Latino students said enough was enough and walked out of their classrooms at West High School.

The students and adult civil-rights leaders who joined them on the steps of the school were met by helmeted police officers, a barrage of tear gas and handcuffs.

The protesters said they were tired of a specific teacher who they said made a habit of weaving racist remarks into his social studies lectures.

Although the group that walked out represented only a tenth of the Chicano student body at West, and 6 percent of the school’s total population, their message could not to be quieted.

Once outside, adults joined student protesters.

When students began to march off school grounds and across the street to Sunken Garden Park, 15 Denver police officers began hitting people with billy clubs and shoving others to the ground.

Officers later said they were acting in self-defense against punches thrown by protesters.

After the dust and tear gas settled, 25 people — including 12 juveniles — were detained. More than a half-dozen people were injured, including one officer.

The confrontation between protesters and police sparked a series of neighborhood protests in the days that followed. Many included clashes with police.

Rocks and glass bottles were thrown and vehicle windows were smashed. More people were arrested and more injuries — of both police and protesters — were reported. After a couple of restless days, protests subsided. Of the more than a dozen protesters who were arrested, only one was convicted.

The confrontation gave rise to a list of student demands. They sought diversity among district faculty and in curriculum; additional cultural training for teachers; outright dismissal of racist teachers; and bilingual study options within the school system.