Rural mountain communities in Colorado are speaking up and lining the streets to stand in solidarity with national protests against police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
On Tuesday evening, Gunnison Valley residents showed up for an event organized by Elizabeth Cobbins, the project coordinator for multicultural affairs at Western Colorado University. Cobbins had been quiet over the past week, but she felt it was time to address discrimination and police brutality.
“I tried to avoid it, like not pay attention to it,” she said. “But I’m a Black woman, and that was impossible.”
After realizing she couldn’t stay silent, she created a Facebook event.
“I was angry and sad and was like, Gunnison Valley needs to know that I live here too, and my problems exist, and my people are dying too. So we gotta do something about it," she said.
Cobbins thought maybe 20 to 50 people might show up to stand with her. To her surprise, the crowd numbered in the hundreds.
Ethan White, a Gunnison resident and friend of Cobbins, helped her get the word out.
“So it's really important to me that the black community feels ownership,” he said. “Because ultimately that's what it's about, it's their freedom, their choice and I'm trying to leverage my privilege to make that happen.”
The event took several impromptu turns, including a march down North Main Street and an 8 minute and 46 second-long moment of silence in honor of Floyd. Protestors also laid down on the ground or took a knee, similar to many of the protests this week.
After that, Cobbins addressed the crowd. She reflected on how it was not her responsibility to carry the burden on her own.
“We are a community, we are the Gunnison Valley,” she said. “This is our fight as human beings.”