By Marissa Armas

DENVER (CBS4)– Walking through Lower Downtown, LoDo, in Denver, there aren’t many signs of what once was, except for a plaque near 20th and Blake.

(credit: CBS)

“A white mob descended on the Chinatown that was existing in LoDo, and basically they brutalized the people there, they destroyed the businesses, and they even killed a man,” said Joie Ha, the vice-chair of the Colorado Asian Pacific United.

On Oct. 31, 1880, a once-bustling Denver Chinatown was left in shambles after an anti-Chinese riot broke out in the area.

“After the riot there were tens of thousands of dollars in damage to businesses and the city of Denver and other institutions were unable to compensate anyone for the damages that they experienced,” Ha said. “As a whole, those that were brutalizing, also didn’t really receive any punishment for what they had done.”

Now the City of Denver is issuing a formal apology to Chinese immigrants and their descendants for its role in the riot. On Saturday, CAPU, the city of Denver and the University of Colorado Denver, are gathering for the event “Reclaiming Our Past, Building Our Future: Denver’s Chinatown Apology.” Denver will become only the fifth city to issue an apology of this sort to the Chinese community in the United States, and the first city outside of California to do so.

(credit: City of Denver)

“The city of Denver turned its back on our Chinese community,” said Derek Okubo, the executive director, with the city of Denver’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships. “We allowed prejudice and hate and discrimination to fester.”

Okubo said while they cannot erase the past injustices, this is a first step towards recognizing and honoring the contributions of the Chinese community and fostering racial reconciliation.

“Trauma passes down to generations. We need to heal,” he said.

For CAPU it’s an apology that brings healing and knowledge, so history doesn’t repeat itself.

(credit: City of Denver)

“This is a start for a movement where we really start to recognize and honor the legacies of our communities,” Ha said. “And continue to build upon the work that our forefathers and foremothers have done to create a society and community that truly is welcoming, where everyone despite their background can feel a sense of belonging.”

Saturday’s event is currently at capacity, but CAPU will stream the event live. For a link to that visit: https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoAPUnited

Marissa Armas