Organizers of Littleton’s Black Lives Matter Solidarity Walk have called for the resignation of city Councilmember Pat Driscoll, alleging Driscoll harshly chastised walk organizer Lauren Acres in a phone call the night before the June 18 march.
Driscoll later said he thought his “very direct questions” about walk plans were what “upset Ms. Acres,” adding that he was civil in the conversation.
Acres addressed Driscoll in a statement during the July 7 city council meeting, saying he called her the evening of June 17 and told her not to hold the march, citing fears from local merchants who were afraid the march could include agitators who might vandalize or damage businesses along the route.
Driscoll, elected in 2017 to a four-year term, represents District 1, which includes downtown.
“Your tone, energy and comments became aggressive, harassing and intimidating,” Acres said in a statement read partly by her and partly by organizer Katherine Maltais after Acres’ time ran out. “You said I would be held liable and asked how I could sleep at night knowing something so terrible could happen. I insisted that if you were aware of people who intended to disrupt the event or intended to cause harm, you should notify the police immediately.”
The call continued for 17 minutes, Acres said, with Driscoll bringing up his relationship with Acres’ father, and saying a dozen merchants were planning to board up their windows.
No businesses were observed to have boarded up windows during the June 18 march, which wound from Sterne Park to the Littleton Municipal Courthouse, crossing through downtown at Prince Street. Attendance estimates range into the thousands. The march was planned and permitted with assistance from city government and Littleton Police.
“Your behavior proved to me and many others, that you embody and reinforce the type of systemic patriarchy that our country is so badly in need to change,” Acres’ statement continued. “You clearly violated the code of conduct you were asked to follow. Pat Driscoll, I ask for your immediate resignation so that we can begin to build a council that represents the values of the community that I live in.”
Other walk organizers backed up Acres.
“To see how shaken (Acres) was by the words of Pat Driscoll the night leading up to the event, the way he absolutely bullied her over the phone, it really shook us all up to know there’s somebody on city council who wields their power in that abusive manner,” said fellow organizer Emily Able.
Larry Thompson Sr., a Black activist who serves as the chair of the city’s Next Generation Advisory Committee, said Driscoll should think about what it means to be a leader.
“Moving forward as people of stature and leadership, our job is to set examples,” Thompson said. “Do not create a presumptive nature saying that Black Lives Matter is some type of violent perspective. That alone is detrimental to the progression of people of color going forward in the city of Littleton. ... We should try to create a more inclusive environment moving forward.”
In a followup phone call, Driscoll called Acres’ recollection of the call’s content “mostly accurate,” and later provided a written statement defending his actions.
“The Solidarity March was on my radar for all the right reasons,” Driscoll wrote. “I was thrilled it went as planned. However, over a four-day span prior to the march, I heard from citizens and business owners that had serious concerns about the safety of downtown in lieu of what was happening around the nation with rioting and vandalism. I would have never called Ms. Acres if not for these concerns. They wanted to know if downtown would be safe to visit, and (if) businesses (should) board their windows.”
“Council receives calls and emails from citizens and merchants every day, and we are expected to act. That is just what I did. I spoke very passionately and directly with Ms. Acres. I never raised my voice or used profanity. I asked very direct questions like, ‘Can you guarantee there will be no vandalism? Are your prepared to take responsibility?’ I believe my questioning is what upset Ms. Acres. I reached out to Ms. Acres on July 8th to discuss her concerns and a few misleading statements at council, but she declined my call.”
Driscoll added: “I take Ms. Acres’ statements very seriously and will work on being a better communicator. I am truly upset that this has been blown out of proportion considering it was a successful event. This is a case where we will agree to disagree.”
Littleton Police observed no damage related to the walk, said patrol chief Gene Enley, and issued no citations and made no arrests related to the march. The department had no warning of any agitators or threats before the march, Enley added.
“In fact, a lot of the marchers thanked our officers for their service,” Enley said. “That’s always nice to hear. We live in a community that supports its police.”
Littleton Mayor Jerry Valdes, who participated in the solidarity walk and praised the organizers for the event’s peaceful nature, called the dispute overblown.
“Our society is becoming a bunch of wimps,” Valdes said. “You hurt my feelings, so you need to lose your job? Toughen up. It doesn’t surprise me they said he was ‘bullying’ them. That seems to be the word these days.”
Kal Murib, the co-chair of the Littleton Business Chamber and owner of numerous downtown buildings, said Driscoll was correct that some business owners were concerned about the march.
“Rightfully so, coming on the heels of what we saw in Denver,” said Murib, referring to protests in late May and early June in which some participants vandalized property and set fires in downtown Denver. “We were concerned agitators would come to Littleton, and we shared that with (Driscoll). We were pleased things went as smoothly as they did.”
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.