Hundreds gather for Black Lives Matter walk in Littleton

‘I’ve experienced racism in Littleton,’ says speaker

At first, Littleton’s June 18 Black Lives Matter solidarity march was hard to find: A few people huddled under a picnic shelter at Sterne Park, getting out of the rain as storm clouds loomed.
But as the minutes ticked by, the crowd swelled. Soon the park was filled with hundreds of people -- young and old, men and women, many ethnicities. Organizer Lauren Acres called out some ground rules: Don’t litter, don’t harass drivers, wear a face mask. Keep it peaceful.
By the time the walk set off on a winding route to the nearby courthouse, escorted by Littleton Police officers, the crowd stretched for blocks. Among them were numerous members of Littleton City Council and the Littleton school board.
Many participants thrust their fists in the air as the crowd broke into chants, listing the names of Black men and women killed at the hands of police. Names like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain.
Others carried signs calling for racial justice:
“If you’re not livid, you are not listening.”
“No one is free until we all are.”
“No justice, no peace.”
“Black lives matter.”
Littleton Police Chief Doug Stephens stood at the head of the roadblock as the march crossed Main Street, waving and smiling at marchers, many of whom called out “thank you” to Stephens and his fellow officers.
Before long, the massive crowd covered the lawn of the Littleton Municipal Courthouse, as passing drivers honked their support.
As stragglers packed in, activist Maya Walker took to a loudspeaker.
Watch each speaker's full remarks:
“I’ve experienced racism in Littleton,” said Walker, who is Black. “I’ve experienced racism from the nicest people. ... I’ve been pulled over on my way to church by Littleton Police, and I don’t know why. ... Let’s examine our hearts. Let’s examine our systems. Let’s examine our schools.”
Littleton’s solidarity march followed hundreds of protests and rallies around the country over the past month, begun after the May 25 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Activists have rallied in Colorado towns as far flung as Craig and Sterling, and Gov. Jared Polis signed a sweeping police reform bill spurred by the movement on June 19.
“What’s next?” said Larry Thompson Sr., a Black activist who sits on Littleton’s Next Generation Advisory Council and is vice president of Colorado Young Democrats. “I want to speak about reparations. Did that word make you cringe? If so, we’ve got work to do on you. Everybody has work to do. That’s OK.”
Poet and activist Norma Johnson read an excerpt from her poem “I Didn’t Tell You,” about the insidious nature of casual racism that often flies under the radar.
“I didn’t tell you about being followed in the store, and how I obediently kept my hands and bag in plain sight,” Johnson said. “I didn’t tell you about the white woman I passed at twilight in the park who tensed her body, tightened the grip on her purse, and walked a large curved detour around me. ... We are virtual worlds apart. You can think of yourself as multi-ethnically expansive because you have a black friend. I, meanwhile, just still stay black.”
Stephens, the police chief, said he saw in the march and rally a call for justice and a message of hope.
“This is an opportunity for the community to come together and support positive change,” Stephens said. “I see a message of acceptance of all people. What makes Littleton wonderful is you can have a peaceful event to get this message out.”
To Julia Montano, one of the event’s organizers, the march was a first step in a process of confronting the built-in injustices of a society constructed to benefit white people.
“I acknowledge my role in our current system,” said Montano, who is white. “My ancestors intentionally walked us into the system of injustice and inequality we live in now. We have to intentionally walk ourselves out.”
Bella Schelhaas, who will be a senior this fall at Arapahoe High School, said being Black in the suburbs can be challenging.
“I’ve had racist comments directed at me,” Schelhaas said. “Sometimes I don’t feel safe.”
Schelhaas said she plans to start a Black Student Alliance at Arapahoe this fall.
“When I went to school administrators after someone made racist comments to me, I felt like they didn’t know what to do. I want to create a place for people to come and share those experiences in a more understanding environment. Today, this march was great. Seeing everyone who came out, I felt cared for.”


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