‘The Thing That Makes This Feel Different Now Is Everyone’s Listening’: Portraits Of Denver Protesters
Thousands have protested in front of Colorado's Capitol in the weeks following the death of George Floyd. The sizes of the crowds and the specific demands have varied, but the themes of social justice and racial equity are constant.
George Floyd was buried in Houston on June 9. Before the vigil held for him in Denver's Civic Center Park, photographer Kendelyn Ouellette took portraits of those who attended. Each person offered their perspective on the momentum of the movement.
"I want to see a change in the justice system. I want to see a change overall. I've been doing this since 1973 and now change is coming. I think the thing that makes this feel different now is everyone's listening, not just in a local city, not just in Minnesota, but throughout the world. Everyone's starting to see, as a Black man, we were not treated equally."
"It's time for you to recognize that we are one. We are the same. We might have different views, but at the end of the day, we want justice and we want peace. We want to be able to walk down the street and not feel like somebody who has a superiority complex is going to end our lives. It’s time for action, for the government that's supposed to be working for us. We're paying these tax dollars for them to create laws, to protect us, not to incarcerate us, not to destroy us, not to separate families."
"I feel like there's a lot of brothers and sisters, white and Black, tearing each other down internally, and we really just need to come together in this time. And we might disagree. There are some people that want to burn it to the ground. There's other people that want peace. I think overall our goal is the same and everyone is entitled to help. But don't get upset when people aren't leading it how you want it to go. If you want it to go a certain way, then stand up and be the leader that you're looking for."
"I'm an artist and my voice is all about the human condition. And so this movement, it just hits home for me and everything that's going on right now. I'm here to see what's going on. I need to learn more as a white person. I need to learn a whole lot more. I'm already an ally, but that's not good enough. I'm proud of my city. I love Denver. We step up, we turn out, we make it happen. And so I want to see this carried through to actual change. That's going to happen for our country. Seeing the protests happen globally has lifted me up and given me some hope."
"I'm not out here to tell Black people how to do their protest. I'm not out here to do anything that's not asked of me. I will shield you from pepper bullets. I will speak if you want me to speak, but if I'm going to speak, I'm going to speak to the white people and tell them that they need to get over this weird complex that they think that they can't be wrong. Really we're all wrong. And we need to move on, not cry about it, and not feel bad for ourselves, and make change, and listen to people of color and Black people. This is their movement."
"I did a lot of protesting during my time. Back then they weren't shooting rubber bullets. They were shooting real bullets. But what really impresses me the most -- when I was demonstrating, if it was for a Black cause, it was like 95 percent Black. I see all the young Caucasian people, every race, out. That just blew my mind. They'll begin to now imagine themselves being Black. They've been shielded all this time from what we had to go through, but what happened with [George Floyd], it happens with Black folks all the time. There ain’t no Black person in America who hasn’t been marginalized by the police. So I think something good is gonna come out of this. This is a movement. Things are really going to change."
"I think one of the strongest things you can do is speak from the heart. That's one thing that bothers me about reminding people that Black people like myself deserve the right to live is that there are people out there that believe the opposite, and they don't even know my heart."
"I consider this like a second civil rights movement, so it's really powerful to be a part of this. It also is sad that we have to do this all over again, but I'm proud to say that I'm a part of this and my generation."
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