Protest in Castle Rock focuses on race inequality

Story-sharing event at Festival Park gives way to marching downtown

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Nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis reached Castle Rock Tuesday, June 2, as a community event held to give people of color a platform to share stories gave way to protesting throughout the downtown area.

Castle Rock resident Janine Reid said she organized a demonstration held at 2 p.m. in Festival Park to spark conversations in the community about racial injustice in the U.S. and to promote education.

“There are just so many people who have racist ideas and don't see that they are racist,” Reid said.

An event leader, Joshua Pease, announced shortly after 2 p.m. the event would not be a protest — no marching, no chanting — and instead a platform for people to share their stories.

“What we are here to do today is to acknowledge the fact that racism and inequality is not a Denver problem, it is not an Aurora program, it is not a Colorado Springs problem, it is our problem as well,” Pease said.

Reid and Pease said they hope white Americans will work to educate themselves on issues surrounding inequality and the treatment of people of color. Reid said she was “just a suburban mom trying to do my part,” and that she also has much to learn.

Throughout the hour-long event, people of color from Castle Rock took turns giving firsthand accounts of their experiences with racism and their ideas for moving the country forward.

Brandon Davis of Castle Rock said it is the responsibility of everyone to speak up against injustice. Davis called on the crowd to “be the difference maker. Silence is not an option.” Talking about racial inequality can change a person's perspective, he said.

“I'm maybe one of the few male African Americans here,” he said. “Take some time to discover and ask, ask questions, because knowledge is power. A lot of things happen, and a lot of perspectives happen because of ignorance, you just don't know, you don't know you are operating with a sense of limited knowledge.”

Michelle Jones of Castle Rock described the phrase “All Lives Matter,” a common and controversial rebuke to the Black Lives Matter movement, as “gaslighting.”

“It's like revisionism in history where you are ignoring the fact that everybody sees color and that it's important to see color so that we understand the different experiences, the realities of people of color in this country,” she said.

Jones thanked the crowd for standing up for people of color and “acknowledging the racism in this country.” She urged understanding of the tense scenes playing out across the country through riots and violence in cities including Denver.

“When you see riots happening out in the streets that's not because people of color are criminals or savages it's because trauma is pouring out of them, generational trauma,” she said. “They are not being heard, and they don't know what else to do.”

The Castle Rock demonstrations remained peaceful, but one nearby business still took preacautions. Three men boarded up windows at Dazbog Coffee, on the edge of Festival Park, before and during the event.

Landon Dees, director of operations for Dazbog, said it was a precaution after the police department informed downtown businesses a protest was planned that afternoon.

Police Chief Jack Cauley spoke to the crowd as the event came to a close, saying the department's philosophy is to treat everyone they meet like family and with empathy.

“We all want to heal, we all want to heal together,” he said.

Cauley then asked the crowd to kneel with him and led the group in a prayer for the town and country.

“I pray that everybody can heal together that we can listen to each other, that we can be empathetic and passionate and treat everybody with dignity and respect. Everybody,” he said.

Kennedi Scales, a 16-year-old Douglas County High School student, said she appreciated the platform Reid's event gave people of color, but she came expecting to protest. Scales wanted the opportunity to peacefully protest police brutality and failures of the criminal justice system to protect people of color, she said.

“As a young African American I think it's so important to stress to people that racism is everywhere and it's taught,” Scales said.

Every aspect of her life is negatively impacted by the color of her skin, she said, adding she believes “there are a lot of people who have racist ideals and morals” even if they do not realize it.

Scales said the first step to progress is recognizing the problems, and she believe more measures are needed to prevent police brutality and improve the justice system.

Shortly after Reid's event concluded, protesting broke out in the park, which gave way to marching throughout the downtown. Crowds gathered on Wilcox Street, waving signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and decrying racism.

The protesting crowd, mostly young adults and teenagers, chanted the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and laid face-down on the ground for nine minutes in honor of Floyd, chanting, “I can't breathe.”

Helping lead the group at one part of the afternoon was Riley Yantra, 19, of Castle Rock.

Standing in the center of Festival Park circled by dozens of protesters, Yantra shouted a sentiment he repeated throughout the night — the group was not standing against something, but rather, “this is about being for something,” he said.

Yantra condemned the violence and riots following Floyd's death, and said that is not representative of protesters.

“Anybody who is violent is not about this cause right here,” he said as the crowd marched and chanted behind him. “This is beautiful.”

Yantra said he loves his community and the Castle Rock Police Department. He had asked Cauley to lead the crowd in taking a knee, he said.

Yantra's father is black and his mother white, he said. He hopes the protests will push people to educate themselves about systemic racism and urged people to use their votes to enact change in the U.S.

That's why he protested in Castle Rock.

“It made me emotional,” he said. “I couldn't hold my tears back.”

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