‘This Isn’t A New Issue:’ Colorado Springs Social Justice Advocate Reflects On Current Moment

June 11, 2020
A poster in front of demonstrators in Colorado Springs on Sunday, June 7, 2020, outlines demands for change.A poster in front of demonstrators in Colorado Springs on Sunday, June 7, 2020, outlines demands for change. Andrea Chalfin / KRCC News
A poster in front of demonstrators in Colorado Springs on Sunday, June 7, 2020, outlines demands for change.

Colorado Springs City Council had a closed meeting Thursday to discuss creating an advisory committee aimed at addressing policing issues in the community. For folks like Samantha Christiansen, it's not nearly enough. She's a board member of the Chinook Center and the Empowerment Solidarity Network, two local organizations involved in coordinating protest efforts. 

KRCC’s Elena Rivera spoke with Christiansen about the city's response to demands for police oversight and her experiences protesting. 

Highlights from the interview:

On the Colorado Springs Support Protest Fund, in collaboration with Empowerment Solidarity Network and Colorado Springs DSA

"This isn't a new issue. It wasn't even a new issue last year. We've had problems of excessive force in this community for a long time."

We were concerned people were getting arrested for protesting, and we were trying to think of the best way to support them. Realistically, one of the most acute needs when someone's being arrested is that they need bail money, and they need help covering the expenses that go along with that.

So we launched [the bail fund], [and] we've collected over $12,000 in individual donations to the fund. We've helped people pay back their bail bond that they had to put up to get out of jail. 

On city responses to protests now and previous responses when organizing around the death of De'Von Bailey

When we were organizing around the same issues before, it was really hard to get any traction from a lot of city officials. They almost treated us like a fringe group. Now that it's pretty clear that the majority of the population recognizes this to be a problem, it feels like now they're a little more willing to come to the table.

That said, much of the response that we've been getting, even this time, has been things like exploratory committees or having a discussion about it. From my point of view, we've been having this discussion for a year.

This isn't a new issue. It wasn't even a new issue last year. We've had people being killed in this community and harassed in this community. We've had problems of excessive force in this community for a long time.

On proposed goals for community change

"What we've tried to do for our local demands is really focus on the problems that we are having here in our community."

Our first is defund and demilitarize the Colorado Springs police department and El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Our second is to institute restorative justice processes.

Third, we'd like to have the creation of a dedicated mental health and other support emergency line. Fourth, we would like specifically the police officers who have been involved in numerous complaints and deaths to be fired.

Five, compile and maintain complete transparent and accessible information on officer complaints and use of force and six, institute community oversight of all use of force.

So, a lot of these you can hear really echo the same demands that were being made in light of the death of De'Von Bailey last summer and others. What we've tried to do for our local demands is really focus on the problems that we are having here in our community.

The bill that is in the process of going through at the state level addresses some of the issues that we're facing, but these are things that specifically refer to our community and the things that we need here right now.

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