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Denver Mayoral candidate Terrance Roberts sees his run as an extension of his anti-gun violence work

Terrance Roberts was often at the center of the crowds in Denver and Aurora during 2020's racial justice protests.

An ex-Blood, Roberts went from prison to become an anti-gang activist and community organizer in Park Hill nearly two decades ago. As a state legislator, Roberts helped achieve police reform in Colorado following rallies and protests, which he led in the fight against gang warfare.

After 2020's wave of protests died down, however, he says there's unfinished business - and tactics have to be changed.

“Now I’m running for office,” said Roberts, 46, bringing a unique resume to the Denver mayoral race.

During his teenage and young adult years, he was involved in gang violence that earned him several years in prison for felony crimes, including robbery and shooting up a car. After leaving gang life in prison in 2004, he found redemption - despite a 10-year setback that threatened his new life.

Continuing his community work is what drives Roberts to run for office.

“If there was one of these career politicians (in the race) who I thought would do what we needed to do,” he said, “I would get behind them.” Voters seeking change should vote for him “because I have clear answers for what our biggest issues are.”

Through his new platform, Roberts is advocating for more public housing and less penalizing homelessness policies. The mayoral candidate argues that Denver needs to make drastic changes to its police department, such as ending officers' use of violent informants and reallocating some police funding. Election reform is also a concern for Roberts.

“No more three-term mayors — no one up here deserves to be mayor for 12 years,” he said during a Regis University mayoral debate in early February, and proposed a two-term limit, or eight years.

Some voters may be concerned about Roberts' past, which includes a moment in time that halted years of difficult and delicate efforts to defuse tensions between Crips and Bloods and steer youth away from gangs. in 2013, during a peace rally he organized in Holly Square, which he had helped rebuild five years earlier following a gang attack, he shot a man from the Bloods five times, paralyzed him.

Bloods labeled Roberts a snitch and threatened him, so Roberts claimed self-defense. His attempted murder charges were acquitted by a jury in 2015.

“I don’t worry about those questions because that’s just who I am and that’s my life,” Roberts said. “I’m not ashamed about who I am.” He says he has since organized gatherings to ease tensions between gangs when requested since his acquittal.

A recent book and documentary feature Roberts and the 2013 shooting, “The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood,” by author-director Julian Rubinstein.

As well as his past work, he says, the attention and debates are helping him succeed.

“Even though my name is not the biggest name” among the candidates, Roberts said, “there are people in the city of Denver who don’t know anything about those people, but who know my name.”

Those performing community work like Terrance Roberts, whose life has been impacted by gun violence, not only deserve redemption but also possess a unique understanding of how violence occurs in their communities and can promote significant progress toward change and community healing.


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