by Nat Stein
“I never thought it’d be someone I know,” said Myecha Taylor, holding a #JusticeForJesse sign outside the Pioneers’ Museum during a public demonstration Thursday. That hashtag refers to her late friend Jesse Garcia, a 23-year-old Hispanic man from Colorado Springs, who was fatally shot in what she says was a racially tinged altercation on July 16. Friends and family know exactly who did it, according to Taylor, though no arrests have been made.
“[The killer] should be in jail right now but instead he’s walking free,” she told the Indy. “But I’d still be here even if he didn’t pass. This is a beautiful thing.”
Gathered alongside Taylor were over a hundred others, there for an action to “end white silence” in the escalating struggle for racial justice. It was organized by the newly formed local chapter of SURJ — or, Showing Up For Racial Justice — a national network of activists that calls on white people to mobilize in support of the movement for Black lives.
Actions with varying degrees of agitation went down in cities across the country on Wednesday and Thursday, including up the Front Range where the Denver SURJ chapter blocked the entrance of the downtown police station with a massive fluorescent orange sign blaring "Under Construction Until Black Lives Matter."
Four arrests there contrast the non-confrontational and family friendly vibe of the Springs action.
“When you think about why there’s not a centralized Black Lives Matter in Colorado Springs, it kind of makes sense,” said Naomi Wood, Colorado College professor and COS SURJ co-founder. “There’s a real fear of what the white supremacists will do. But that’s why it’s really important we make our presence known.”
The demonstration, though windy and thunderous at times, remained wholly peaceful. Protesters migrated from the sidewalk in front of the Pioneers’ Museum to the one outside the courthouse across the street, chanting phrases like “white silence equals violence!” and “black lives matter!”
A private security guard contracted by the Downtown Partnership stood just off the curb, head on a swivel and hand on her belt. “It’s not [the protesters] we’re worried about,” she told the Indy, requesting anonymity. “It’s all the cars. You know how it is these days, people like to shoot.”
CSPD spokesman Lt. Howard Black said police did have their "eyes on it," but "are all about people being able to express their opinions peacefully."
One counter-protester was in the midst, but caused no trouble. Holding a sign that read “Unity,” 61-year-old Rob Blancken paced further away from the assembled crowd, insisting he was not a part of them. “Black Lives Matter is just ginning up hatred between the races,” he told the Indy, pointing to the other side of his sign emblazoned with the counter-slogan “All Lives Matter.” “You see, I’m here to convince them that what they believe in is actually bigoted.”
Throughout the rest of the crowd, though, the mood was overwhelmingly positive and hopeful.
26-year-old Josh Rumple, a white man, was just waiting for an opportunity to get involved. “My friend told me about this yesterday and I was like, ‘finally,’” he said. “This is a dialog that needs to happen and needs to continue.”
19-year-old DJ Banks, a black man, agrees: “All the people in my circles will be so down for this.”