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A tale of two water fountains


Updated 10/2/2021 to include videos and photos of the day. 

During the Jim Crow era, black Americans were restricted from the many freedoms most white citizens have enjoyed since the founding of the nation. During the Jim Crow era and even beyond, black Americans were restricted from everyday life, not free to enjoy equal rights. Separate doors, separate schools, and separate water fountains labeled Whites Only and Colored. 

Black Americans have also faced two different police departments than their white peers throughout America’s history. 

Black Americans are 3.23 times more likely to be killed by police. 

Black offenders are sentenced 19x more harshly and for longer sentences than white offenders for the same crime.

The list of stats is endless regarding black Americans being treated differently by police and the justice system than white Americans. This may explain why a man suffering from heatstroke at the Denver Zoo died under police intervention. 

Ten years ago in July of 2011, a man named Alonzo Ashley visited the Denver Zoo. According to friends and family, he was visiting the Zoo with his family when he suffered a heat stroke. Instead of getting medical help, the Denver Zoo staff, who are trained in treating heatstroke, called the Denver Police Department. DPD sent out 8 officers and a fire truck. According to those closest to the story, instead of helping a man who was experiencing a heat stroke and was acting erratically trying to get water, Denver Police tasered him, placed him face down on the hot asphalt, and left him there for 20 minutes. When they came back he was dead. The coroner declared Ashley’s death a homicide. 

“If you ask Scottsdale-based Taser, or the Denver coroner, though, the July 18 zapping wasn’t completely to blame for the death of 29-year-old Alonzo Ashley.

According to Taser, a “coroner ruled that Ashley died of cardiorespiratory arrest, possibly brought on by heat, dehydration and the exertion of the struggle, and noted he had been previously treated for high blood pressure.”

The company goes further to say “Ashley’s agitation, combativeness, and unexpected strength was consistent with excited delirium.”

The ACLU made the argument that the use of the Taser was excessive and the 8 officers were never charged. 

“If they had just called an ambulance instead of the cops, maybe things would have been better,” his mother states in an interview with Brother Jeff.

Alonzo Ashley (1982-2011)

The police told a different story than the one I heard this week, as well as what the family stated to Westword in 2011. The family has stayed consistent in their recount of events. Officers stated Alonso was behaving erratically and violently and bit officers. They claimed he had drugs on him (the family denies that claim to this day). The coroner found small traces of THC in his system. After his death, the family was rewarded $295,000 by the City of Denver in a wrongful death suit. 

It has taken the community ten years to get the Denver Zoo to erect a Water Fountain in his name, something they say would have saved his life, instead of ending it with being Tasered to death at 29 years old. 

Today, October 1st, 2021, from 4 – 6 pm there will be a Memorial and Opening of the Alonso Ashley Watering Station, which the community has spent ten years fighting to get placed at the Denver Zoo.

We can contribute Helen Rigmaiden and many other community members for today’s accomplisment.


Head to Facebook to see the Brother Jeff show on September 28th, 2021 to learn more about today’s event.

From the event:



Shavonne Blades grew up on the West Coast but moved to Colorado in High School. She left for California after school and returned to Colorado in 1990. She got her start in media at the age of 21 in Santa Cruz, California as an advertising sales rep. Having no experience and nothing more than a couple of years as an art college attendee she felt the bug to work in media at a young age. She learned that by helping her customers with design and marketing, their campaigns would be far more successful and has made a 30+ year career in design, copywriting, and marketing for her clients. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPy4MMdcfLg.She has always chosen to work in Independent Media and believes deeply in the need for true, authentic Community Journalism. She is proud that YS has never compromised journalism standards in its 20+ history and continues to print YS on paper monthly while also expanding web coverage. She has worked at 3 Alternative Weeklies and founded Yellow Scene Magazine in 2000. You can learn more about Shavonne's adventures in the YS 20th Anniversary issue: https://yellowscene.com/2020/10/08/the-yellow-scenes-red-tornado/

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