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Students feel inspired despite racist rant at Denver City Council meeting

DENVER — While speaking to the Denver City Council about plans for a yurt at Monarch Montessori of Denver, two young students were targeted by a racist rant from another attendee watching via Zoom.

The two girls attended the council meeting with two fellow students and a group of educators. The goal was to discuss the school’s plans for bringing a yurt to the campus, which would be used for music classes. The other two students intended to speak with councilmembers about making two crosswalks near the school more accessible.

“Last night, we went in with a lot of optimism,” said Mairi McCormick, director of elementary at Monarch Montessori. “What we really wanted was for our students to be able to demonstrate in a public space.”

However, the students’ prepared speeches were stopped abruptly by a racist rant that was broadcast over the council speakers through the meeting’s Zoom call.

Local News

Children targeted by racist rant during Denver City Council meeting

6:47 PM, May 14, 2024

The students’ teacher, Giovanni Breaux, was standing at the podium alongside the girls.

“Obviously, as a Black woman, bringing these young Black students to city council and to have them be so excited, this was something that they were doing for the very first time. To have them be so excited and then to be met with that was atrocious,” Breaux said. “Everyone’s response was their jaw hitting the floor.”

Laura Pretty, executive director of Monarch Montessori, was also at the meeting.

“My understanding is that after that, [city council] stopped the meeting. And then a number of city councilmembers came out with us and we went into a little room. They just showered the girls with love and gave them an opportunity to give their speech in a safer space,” Pretty said. “All of that hate, I actually think, whoever the person who was doing that, if anything, they have further empowered us and our kids.”

The educators who spoke with Denver7 on Tuesday said the students were shaken, but by the time they left the Denver City and County Building, they were inspired to be a force of powerful change in their community.

“I don’t know how else to say it — they were pumped. They were like, “We’re going to go back. I’m going to grow up, I’m going to be a judge. I want to work in government,”” Breaux said, smiling. “All of us had the same reaction when the girls were like that, just showing that feeling of being empowered. We were all like, “Yeah, that’s what Monarch is about.””

FULL INTERVIEW: Students feel inspired despite racist rant at Denver City Council meeting, educators say

Pretty said one of her biggest concerns was that the racist outburst would discourage students from participating in democracy. She wants to ensure all students still advocate for the issues they are passionate about and feel empowered to use their voices.

“The idea that for kids, democracy could be scary, is really upsetting to me,” said Pretty. “I want to make sure that our kids are not afraid to speak. That’s the number one lesson we’re going to take from this. And I think if anything, you know, we’ll certainly be looking at how can we work with city council if we bring kids again to make sure it’s a little safer.”

Breaux said the girls are still wearing the trauma of the racist rant from Monday, but one student said she wants to run for city council one day. Everyone left the meeting determined to secure the yurt for their school and work on improving the accessibility of two crosswalks around it.

“Those girls are feeling now like they can do anything,” Breaux said. “That nothing is going to stop them.”

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