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Drawing ire themselves, Denver leaders say ink! gentrification saga speaks to a bigger issue

Author: Adam McCoy - November 30, 2017 - Updated: November 30, 2017

Ink! coffee shop near downtown Denver is shown after graffiti denouncing gentrification was erased from the walls of the building Monday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver’s ink! Coffee shop making light of gentrification on a sandwich board has become a national story and drawn droves of condemnation and protests.

“Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014,” the sign read outside the shop last week before it was taken down. The property was vandalized and protests persisted at the shop. Ink! reopened Tuesday morning under the watchful eye of police, the media and protestors, Denver7 reports.

The owner has since apologized to the city and has written a letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

In a statement earlier this week, Mayor Michael Hancock said the ink! controversy has illuminated a larger narrative of families being pushing out of their neighborhoods through gentrification, and it is “fundamentally an economic challenge for our families and businesses.”

“I grew up in these neighborhoods and know firsthand how development can offer both promise and disappointment,” Hancock wrote. “Ink! Coffee’s advertising was insensitive and disrespectful. I, too, feel the indignation and deep wounds that this has exposed for our community. But protesting an insensitive billboard is just the start. Our community is now faced with a galvanizing moment to collect constructive ideas about how we can better blunt the impacts of this aggressive market.”

But as the conversation has shifted so has the criticism — now directed at city leaders for the gentrification affecting Denver neighborhoods.

Protesters gathered outside of ink! have called for the resignation of Hancock and City Council President Albus Brooks.

“We can’t have elected officials who only show up when a camera shows up,” (protest leader Tay) Anderson told Denver7. “We need them to show up when we are in the streets, right now. I don’t see any of them right now with us.”

Colorado Public Radio reported this week that some protesters outside ink! have carried signs reading, “Albus Brooks. Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2011. #ResistBrooks2019.”

In an interview with CPR, Brooks labeled the sign “incredibly divisive” adding it speaks to a “deeper reality that’s happening in our community, that’s been happening for the last 20 years, of gentrification.”

While he appreciates the apology he received in a letter from the coffee shop owner, he believes the deep-rooted issue calls for reconciliation, which means “restoring defrauded parties,” Brooks told CPR.

“So it’s really deeply understanding this issue. Having someone from the community take him through cultural competency understanding and training. Making sure he is specifically hiring folks of color from the neighborhood. 80205 has the highest ex-offender re-entry population in the city,” Brooks said in part.

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy

Adam McCoy covers Denver-area politics for Colorado Politics.