Protesters gather for racial justice, end to police brutality

Meagan Stackpool

Another round of protests sparked in Fort Collins on Tuesday, June 2, after an Instagram post went viral inviting people to join in a Unity March. 

The independently organized protest began on The Oval in front of the Administration Building where there was a short speech, followed by a march to City Hall along Howes Street.

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Protesters kneel and hold up their fists outside of the Colorado State University Administration Building June 2. The march follows a week of protests after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis Police custody. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

The march was a peaceful demonstration unaffiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, according to organizer Aram Sahakyan; however, it was inspired by and dedicated to it. 

The lawn in front of the Administration Building was nearly full as protesters gathered. According to the Fort Collins Police Department, there is no estimate for crowd attendance, as they don’t have a mechanism to provide accurate data.

During the march, protesters chanted “black lives matter” and “don’t shoot” as they took up several city blocks in length.

If you want to support the cause you have to be vocal because the voice is what makes it known, (what) makes it strong.” -Eduardo Gomez Perez, protester

Sahakyan, a recent philosophy graduate of CSU, shared a post inviting others to join him in a walk to City Hall to celebrate the Black Lives Matter movement and support racial unity. The post that was originally shared on Instagram quickly reached larger audiences and was shared throughout Facebook and Reddit. The post asked attendees to wear a mask and remain socially distant, and strictly condemned any acts of violence or aggression. 

“As a person of Armenian decent, I was raised to cry for justice for the Armenian Genocide (of) 1915,” Sahakyan wrote in a text message to The Collegian. “It doesn’t make sense for me to cry for justice for that but not for the (Black Lives Matter) movement. Social media advocacy wasn’t cutting it. I felt like I needed to do more.”

Hundreds of protesters gather outside Fort Collins City Hall June 2 and listen to Police Chief Jeff Swoboda speak saying, “The Fort Collins Police Department hears you and we march with you … we stand with you.” The march follows a week of protests after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in Minneapolis Police custody. (Matt Tackett | The Collegian)

At one point, crowd members were invited to give speeches addressing fellow protesters and the need for protest. During these speeches, Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda addressed the crowd, expressing the FCPD’s direct support. 

“This is your time, and I am only here just to let you know that I hear you, the Fort Collins Police Department hears you and we march with you,” Swoboda said. “You are welcome at the front of our police department every day. I get it and I hear you. We stand with you.”

As protesters marched from City Hall to Old Town Square, officers walked with the crowd and chatted with them. During nine minutes of silence where protesters laid on the ground with their hands behind their backs, officers took a knee in solidarity. 

Swoboda released statements in relation to the protests going on within Fort Collins and the death of George Floyd. 

“We share your desire for an end to police brutality. No good cop wants bad cops in this profession,” Swoboda wrote in the press release. “We stand with you in creating an equitable, inclusive community where people of color feel safe. We acknowledge that historical and present-day racism exists in our community. It needs to be addressed and stopped.”

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Protesters kneel and hold up the Black Power fist
Protesters kneel and hold up the Black Power fist while protesting in front of the Administration Building at Colorado State University June 2. (Devin Cornelius | Collegian)

Additional information on Swoboda’s statements can be read here.

Eduardo Gomez Perez also attended the protest after viewing the post on Reddit and explained why being active and vocal is so important for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“If you want to support the cause, you have to be vocal because the voice is what makes it known, (what) makes it strong,” Gomez Perez said. “You can do other things aside from protesting. I know people are afraid of judgment or whatnot, but if you’re afraid of the judgment of people who are against this, then you need to look at yourself and the people you surround yourself with.”

CSU is not innocent of racism and hate. We need to see what they’re going to do to back their statements up.” -Aram Sahakyan, protest organizer

Jamir Constance, a recent hospitality management graduate of CSU, expressed why he felt it was important for a community like Fort Collins to take part in protests. 

A Protester holds up a Black Power Fist with a Love Life bracelet on
A protester holds up a Black Power Fist with a Love Life bracelet on during a protest by City Hall on June 2. (Devin Cornelius | The Collegian)

“It’s one of the nicest communities I’ve ever been in,” Constance said. “One of the whitest though and to see all these white people come out and support me and people who look like me, it’s pretty incredible. Just to see the people that have come in to realize the fight and the struggle and the pain that we go through, although they’ve never experienced it and they never will, speaks volumes.”

Sahakyan also expressed the need to do more beyond just protesting. He explained that while protests are important for garnering the public’s attention, people also have to sign petitions, vote and donate. Sahakyan also requested that Colorado State University take action, stating that CSUPD and President Joyce McConnell must make a statement.

“CSU is not innocent of racism and hate,” Sahakyan wrote in a text message to the The Collegian. “We need to see what they’re going to do to back their statements up.”

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Meagan Stackpool can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MeaganStackpool.