The issue: A new dawn of respect, equity and equality is coming.
What we think: Peaceful protest can change communities for the better.
You could be forgiven for not feeling particularly optimistic about things right now.
We’re in the midst of a pandemic that has swept the globe at alarming speed. The economy has tanked. There is still a threat that “murder hornets” could spread across the country. And on top of all that, the brutal killing of an unarmed black man at the hands — or rather, the knee — of a white Minneapolis police officer has spurred a 21st century Civil Rights movement.
So it’s understandable if you feel the urge to sound a primal scream and/or break something. We’ve been there too, lately.
But at the same time, we’re finding reason to hope, to have faith that a drastic change is on the horizon, and to be proud of our community.
You see, Colorado Springs residents have stepped forward and proven their immense value as leaders. You have rallied by the thousands, marching the streets almost daily in solidarity with activists across the world, calling for enhanced accountability of and oversight in cases involving police brutality. You have demanded justice for the late George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and you have invoked the memory of Josh Vigil and Greg Burns.
And just as the early summer heat and the combined pressures of a government-mandated quarantine and clear-cut injustice reached a boiling point, you have kept your cool. You have demonstrated peacefully, carrying signs, cheering public speakers and chanting names.
While other cities have seen peaceful protests derailed by rioting, ours has unified behind a common mission and vision: To truly live and model the change we want to see.
Now, to be clear, this hasn’t been all rainbows and teddy bears and singing of “Kumbaya” (although, really, could there be a more beautiful anthem than this Black spiritual, evoking images of love, unity and mutual support for our brothers and sisters?). We’ve had a few bumps in the road, including a rowdy incident late on May 30 when people threw rocks at officers and fired at an armored vehicle. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Videos that circulated on social media appeared to show a CSPD officer using excessive force during an arrest at a local demonstration; the chilling moment when a female protester was apparently run down in a downtown street; the heavily armed civilians who stood sentinel at the top of a parking garage while marchers peacefully passed below.
But for each negative, we’ve seen myriad examples of how this community has unified and peacefully demonstrated a worthwhile mission. Uniformed Springs cops have been videoed kneeling alongside demonstrators or snapping selfies with marchers. Our newspapers have watched, and reported, as you cared for one another with first aid, fellowship and the occasional shared pizza. The process caught the eye of Police Chief Vince Niski and Mayor John Suthers, who have both praised Colorado Springs activists for leading largely peaceful demonstrations.
And it’s making a difference. On Thursday, June 11, City Council held a special work session to discuss the prospect of a civilian oversight board dedicated to policing. While no final plan has yet been laid out, Council members and Suthers agreed that something has got to change — for the mayor it marks a shift from his position last year, following De’Von Bailey’s fatal shooting.
The wheels of change do not move quickly, but here in Colorado Springs, they are turning. A new dawn of respect, equity and equality is coming to this majority-white community, and it’s coming because you, Colorado Springs, have demanded it. And you demanded it in a peaceful — yet powerful — way.