U.S. history is made up of moments in time influenced by the decisions of its citizens. Fundamental results made possible by the right to gather as groups to push a common purpose have molded the country.
History repeats itself
By Susan Oliver Nelson
Established by the First Amendment as a citizen right to “redress of grievances,” freedom to assemble has been an American tradition even before the republic was established. Some of the most documented outcomes have divided, unified and changed people’s perspectives on how the country’s laws should represent its people.
Throughout U.S. history, protest triggers to redress grievances include injustice, inequality, hate and violence.
Today, protests and resistance are playing out in cities across the country, including Colorado Springs, to address social injustice and push tangible policing reform. Protests are mostly peaceful, but some looters and agitators have caused widespread havoc, including destroying some businesses.
Protests in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs residents marched in solidarity with activists around the country, calling for police reform in cases involving police brutality. Mayor John Suthers said while daytime protests remain peaceful, there are a “handful of bad actors.” (KKTV June 3)
Suthers said that tens of thousands of dollars in property damage was caused by nighttime crowds.
“We’ve had rocks, bricks, bottles and firecrackers thrown at police officers, not only endangering them but those in the crowd,” Suthers said.
Colorado Springs has seen its share of local marches throughout history. The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum records show local protests span generations that include protests like those of today.
- September 1963 — Freedom march rally
- March 1965 — Civil Rights march to City Hall
- July 1970 — Protesting the death of Roosevelt Hill Jr.
- January 1979 — KKK rivals protest
- August 1989 — Civil Rights march
- March 2008 — Downtown rally calls for racial unity
The director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Matt Mayberry, said the current concept of social and political protests is linked to the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.
The youth movement
Like generations before, many young people are searching for ways to shape a better world.
In the 60s, young citizens were drawn to social issues and became activists for the civil rights movement. Today, Generation Z and millennials are propped to continue the march toward change; this time, equipped with updated technology. Instant reality is spread through the social media wires as images, videos and events are shared in real-time.
“Social media allows us to show the world what’s really happening, as it’s happening, there’s no more hiding,” said Jeremy, a Falcon teen who attended the Colorado Springs protest. “If it’s not on video, it didn’t happen.”
Black Lives Matter movement
Founded in 2013 as a hashtag in response to the acquittal of the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter movement is on the front lines seeking to reform police.
Following the May 25 death of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter went on to organize protests around the world.
According to a June 19 article in Cosmopolitan, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza said the movement’s goal is “to build the kind of society where black people can live with dignity and respect.”
New generations emerge
Since the civil rights movement, activists have used the power of protests to bring attention and change to critical issues.
During the 60s and 70s, as race-related riots tore through U.S. cities, not all lawful protests were peaceful, particularly after the assassination of Martin Luther King. Between 1964-1971, there were as many as 700 race-related civil disturbances where large numbers of arrests, deaths, injuries and property damage struck, according to a June 24 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. To end the riots, law enforcement took extensive measures, including mobilizing National Guard units.
The cost of lives and property damage from the current protests are yet to be determined, thus far, there have been over 20 riot-related deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in estimated damages.
In response to contain protest violence and civil unrest, President Trump’s call to governors to deploy the National Guard has been received with mixed emotions, according to a National Public Radio June 2 article.
Does history repeat itself?
From history.com, in 1963, about 250,000 participated in the civil rights march in D.C., where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Afterward, King, with other civil rights leaders, met with the Kennedy administration to discuss the need for a “strong civil rights bill,” which resulted in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A generation after the civil rights movement, Americans, particularly parents, are again faced with racism, social injustice and how to once and for all, eradicate inequality for future generations.
“The current protests have opened up many conversations with our child about racism, civil rights and government in a way that I never expected, especially at such a young age (5, nearly 6),” said Colorado Springs resident, Emily Renteria. “We’ve been looking at art, reading books, and watching videos that focus on multi-racial and multi-cultural characters. Our simplistic way of explaining diversity is that all humans have hearts, lungs, and the same ‘insides,’ we simply have different skin color, body shapes, eye color, etc.”
Police reform in the U.S.
Calls to reform, defund, dismantle and abolish the police are chanted throughout cities as activists peg the law enforcement community as being plagued with racism and police brutality.
One June 16, President Trump signed an Executive Order on safe policing for safe communities. The order addresses community engagement, implementing credentialing, training and technical assistance and promoting the use of appropriate social services as the primary response to individuals who suffer mental illness and addiction. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-safe-policing-safe-communities/
In response to President Trump’s Executive Order on policing, Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of NAACP said in a statement on June 16 that the order is “woefully inadequate and short-sighted.”
“This moment in history demands powerfully strong measures centered by accountability and enforcement in order to transform how our nation envisions and conducts policing,” Johnson said.
On the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, Gov. Jared Polis signed Colorado’s police accountability bill into law. Highlights of the bill include:
- Mandated body cameras
- Required public reporting on policing tactics
- Reining in deadly force use by officers
- Preventing the rehire of bad actors
- Holding individual officers legally liable for their actions
- Chemical agents and projectile restrictions
When will the protests end?
“I will be out here [protesting] every day until police brutality ends,” said Colorado Springs protester, Jovah Wayne. “It’s up to them now, they are the only ones who can end the protests and stop the violence.”
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Falcon now has another reminder of the cost of freedom. On Thursday, June 4, a sign was unveiled naming a section of U.S. Highway 24 at the intersection of Elbert Road in memory of SGM James Gregory Ryan Sartor.
Remembering veteran's sacrifice
By Pete Gawda
With flags and speeches, the assembled crowd honored the memory of the Green Beret. Sartor, who served 19 years in the U.S. Army, was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 13, 2019, three weeks short of the date he was to return from deployment. He was 40 years of age.
Brandon Cabalar, commander of American Legion Post 2008, said the sign was erected through community contributions.
Deana Sartor thanked everyone in the Falcon community. “This highway has a lot of significance for us,” she said. She noted that when the family first came to Colorado, they traveled on this highway. It was on this highway that Sartor was pulled over for speeding, and on this highway he took his last motorcycle ride. Deanna said her husband traveled this highway every day on his way to work.
“Live your life so Ryan will not have died in vain,” she said. “Remember his sacrifice every time you drive past.”
In another ceremony, a brick bearing the name of SGM Sartor was unveiled at Dane R. Balcon Memorial Park in Woodmen Hills, and yellow roses were presented to the Sartor family.
“We are family, we are not just veterans,” Cabalar told the crowd.” Let's not forget what SGM Sartor stood for. “