DENVER — People are not happy after a weekend-long event celebrating the Black community was abruptly cancelled on Denver Public School (DPS) property. The Taste of the South event was supposed to take place on Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20 in the parking lot of George Washington High School. The event was sanctioned by Denver Public Schools.
"Taste of the South is a celebration of minority and Black excellence. It was a platform built by us to really celebrate Black and minorities outside of oppression. We bring together community, vendors, food all those type of things to come out and celebrate over a two-day event," event co-owner Evangelia Williams said. "It was an amazing, amazing, amazing vibe."
On Saturday, the event went on until 7:00 p.m. That's when Williams told 9NEWS they cancelled the rest of the night due to rain. On Sunday, when organizers arrived at the parking lot for the second day of festivities, DPS told them they would have to cancel the rest of the event.
In a statement on Sunday DPS said, "The safety of every event that occurs on Denver Public Schools' property, whether it is a DPS event or a private event, is something that we take very seriously. The "Taste of the South" event scheduled for Aug. 19 and 20 at George Washington High School was cut short by the Denver Public Schools Department of Climate and Safety due to safety concerns from a lack of security personnel."
"When planning the event, the organizers were advised how many DPD police officers, DPS Campus Safety Officials and patrol officers would be required. After the event started on Saturday, Aug. 19, the required number of safety personnel that had been agreed to was not met. Due to safety concerns Saturday evening, the event was shut down at 7 p.m. When organizers were not able to secure the number of officers that were required and had been agreed to for the anticipated crowd size for Sunday, the DPS Department of Climate and Safety canceled the event," the statement continued.
On Monday, DPS spokesperson Scott Pribble clarified the organizers were supposed to supply 10 off-duty DPD officers and DPS would supple eight security members.
The organizers claimed that was no part of their agreement. The Rocky Mountain NAACP was also present at Saturday's event they said they are looking into who should be held accountable when it comes to the money lost from the event cancellation.
"There are vendors that unfortunately flew out from different states that they had contracts with," Rashad Younger, press secretary for the Rocky Mountain NAACP, said. "There were contracts that were with DPS so we want to do an investigation and just kind of figure out what was going on so that way we can make sure that if there was something that was wrong by them that we right it."
Denver Police Department said no off-duty officers were present at the event throughout the weekend. A DPD spokesperson shared a statement that said, "Initially, the Taste of the South organizer requested five off-duty officers for each day of the event and then scaled it back to two officers per day just a couple of days before the event. It’s our understanding that the permit approved by DPS required more than that."
"Due to safety concerns, the DPD scheduler called the event organizer on the day before the event and advised them that they needed to staff five off-duty officers each day, which the event organizer declined, so DPD decided not to provide the two off-duty officers per day. DPD did however send on-duty officers on Saturday to assist with safety/security after the organizer moved forward with the event with what DPD felt was an insufficient safety plan. Please reach out to DPS for the requirements of their contract with the event organizer," the statement continued.
9NEWS has requested a copy of the contract from DPS to try and get clarity. Regardless, the organizer said they are upset by how the weekend played out.
"I was disappointed and devastated," Williams said. "This event was for my community to highlight them being excellent and I really felt like it was unfair not only for myself but for all of the vendors."
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