DENVER - On December 8, 1968, Denver police raided the headquarters of the city's chapter of the Black Panther Party. Around 30 officers entered the building at 3401 Franklin in the early morning, just hours after the wedding reception of Lauren Watson, the founder of the Denver Black Panthers.
Police obtained a warrant to enter and search the building after two officers reported guns were waved at them during Watson's reception. They found three weapons and some ammunition. Watson and other members of the Black Panthers filed a formal complaint against the Denver Police Department, reporting officers caused $9,000 in damage to the building, its furniture, art work and personal possessions. City officials responded that police only caused a few hundred dollars in damage. Mayor Thomas Currigan called the complaint a "total lie" to local media.
Disagreements over the raid reflected Denver's racial divisions in the 1960s. Although many white Denverites believed their city was racially tolerant, local African-Americans and Hispanics faced extensive discrimination in education, housing, and employment. Watson founded the Denver chapter of the Black Panthers in 1967 out of frustration with both racism and the Vietnam War.
The December raid came at the end of a year of racial conflict in Denver. In April, protests after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. caused Currigan and acting governor Mark Hogan to call for calm in the city. In June, African-American teenager Nathan Jones was shot and wounded by Denver police during a clash between officers and teenagers in Park Hill. September 1968 saw several nights of unexpected protests throughout north Denver after a white business owner assaulted a black child.
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