Council also passed a resolution committing city to antiracism actions
By Paul Albani-Burgio
The Golden city council has voted to hang a banner proclaiming the city of Golden's support of Black people from the Golden welcome arch.
According to a resolution passed 6-1 by the council on Aug. 27, the banner will display text stating “Golden stands with black lives” and hang from the banner for a total of 60 days, an amount of time intended to symbolize how long it took for slave ships to cross the Atlantic.
However, those 60 days will be split into smaller week increments to allow the city to keep pre-existing commitments to hang other banners from the arch promoting community groups and events.
The idea of hanging a banner from the arch to express support for Black people first originated with the Golden United and Golden Anti-Racism Collective groups, which first came to the council with a proposal to hang a banner reading “Black Lives Matter” from the city council building and, later, the arch.
During a council discussion of the proposal on Aug. 10, city attorney Dave Williamson raised concerns that hanging the banner from the arch could risk converting the arch to a public forum and obligate the city to allow other groups to display messages from the arch regardless of whether the council agreed with them or wanted them there.
Williamson suggested that the city could avoid appearing to make the arch into a public forum by issuing a resolution that would express the council's own statements on the issue and then directing city staff to hang a banner as an expression of its statements, rather than those of Golden United.
Following that discussion, the question of whether to hang the banner generated significant and passionate public comment from those both in support and opposition. Councilwoman JJ Trout said she had received 147 communications from constituents about the banner with 95 of them expressing support.
The question also generated division among the council with Mayor Laura Weinberg and councilmembers Casey Brown, Bill Fisher and Trout saying they were supportive of hanging the banner as a clear show of city's intent to support the black community and create a safe community for all residents.
Councilmembers Paul Haseman and Jim Dale expressed that they were opposed to hanging the banner.
"I just feel the banner is divisive and it could bring some difficult, terrible vandalism and hate groups to our city and I’m not ready to accept that," said Dale.
Councilman Rob Reed also expressed concerns about the precedent hanging the banner could set and the impact it could have on community businesses but said he ultimately felt hanging the benefit outweighed those concerns.
“I think putting a banner up for a reasonable amount of time is the right thing to do,” said Reed. “I want people of color to feel welcome in our community and this is a way to do it. I very much hope it does not result in adverse consequences and I don't think it will.”
At one point during the meeting, Haseman suggested that if the city is to hang a banner it could hang one denouncing racism without using the “black lives” language associated with the Black Lives Matter group.
“We can say that the use of the term `black lives matter' is not associated with the black lives matter movement but the term `black lives matter' has been politicized” Hasemen said. “And even though the underlying tenants behind that are laudable and certainly should be supported the actual term itself is divisive.”
But several other councilors pushed back against and even criticized the position that “Golden stands with black lives” could be a divisive message
“This is about supporting `Golden stands with black lives,'” Fisher said. “It's the most American of comments and it's time to acknowledge that black citizens in America have been held back and put down and we must lift them up to allow them to be equal so that we can say that `all lives matter' and mean it.”
In addition to voting to hang the banner, the council also unanimously passed a resolution committing the city to anti-racism actions, including researching what actions other cities have taken to combat racism to develop an anti-racism plan for Golden.
The resolution also calls for holding community conversations around racism, including conversations involving the police department with the department then reporting back to the council on next steps.