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Group unveils proposed text for Denver Chinatown historic marker

Posted at 3:20 PM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-09 08:35:44-04

DENVER -- Before it was home to the Rockies, Lower Downtown Denver was a bustling Chinatown. Although it's gone now, in its place is a plaque that only remembers one violent event.

The plaque on the side of a building on the corner of 20th and Blake Street reads, "Hop Alley/Chinese Riot of 1880."

The text on that plaque includes a derogatory term referring to the violent anti-Chinese race riot that happened all those years ago.

It's text Gil Asakawa with the Colorado Asian Pacific United Committee says isn't reflective of what exactly happened and the community that was once there.

"We started looking at this plaque and thinking, 'we need to replace it. We need to take it down. We need to write something that's more accurate and replace it,'" said Asakawa.

The plaque references that one Chinese person died, but it doesn't include his name, which was Look Young.

It does, however, list the names of three white business owners who protected Chinese people during the riot.

Asakawa says he'd rather see a memorial that talks about the bustling Chinese community in LoDo.

"We want the text of it to really celebrate and tell people that there was a thriving Chinatown in Lower Downtown Denver, which nobody knows about," said Asakawa.

On Sunday, Asakawa got a bit closer to his goal of getting the plaque replaced, unveiling what he hopes to be a historic marker.

The proposed new text on the marker would read in part, "we shall never forget the past while we are moving into the future."

Getting the marker up is still a ways away because the group has not gotten permission from the building owner to replace the plaque.

"When we have something physical up, that's when we'll all feel like we've accomplished something that will help people in the future, understand our past," said Asakawa.

Although the historic marker isn't up yet, Asakawa says it's a step toward having history remembered.

"The process is the process and we're committed to it," he said.