Scores of Black Lives Matter protesters marched to the alleged home of a Colorado Springs police officer to mark the one-year anniversary of the fatal incident in which he and another officer shot De’Von Bailey, a 19-year-old Black man.
No one appeared to be inside the residence when the roving protest arrived.
The home, which protesters believe belongs to Colorado Springs Police Department Sgt. Alan Van’t Land, and neighboring properties were roped off with ‘no trespassing’ signs. All told, the demonstration lasted for more than an hour Monday night.
Van’t Land, as well as Officer Blake Evenson, were both cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting last fall by an independent grand jury. Jurors heard evidence that while the officers hadn't seen a gun, they believed Bailey was armed when he fled from their questioning, and that he posed a threat to the public. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney for Colorado also declined to bring charges against the two men. Bailey’s family has since filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers.
While many in Monday night’s crowd called for formal action against Van’t Land, in particular for his firing, organizer Shaun Walls acknowledged that would be unlikely at this point.
“We don’t expect anything professional to be done to him,” Walls said. For that reason, Wals said the nonprofit he belongs to, Empowerment Solidarity Network, will continue to be a constant presence in Van’t Land’s life. “So now we're going to be at his church. We're going to be in front of his neighbor's house... We're going to become a nuisance for him.”
Monday night’s protest included more than a half-dozen demonstrators clad in body armor and carrying assault-style rifles or tactical shotguns. Their presence elevated tensions as the protest moved through the residential neighborhood.
The crowd blocked the street for a period of time, leading to at least one expletive-laden shouting match between protesters and an oncoming driver, with each side recording the event on their smartphones.
CSPD officers used the loudspeaker of a distant response vehicle to order the protesters to allow vehicles through. The police department also sent a message to residents, urging them to shelter-in-place for the duration of what they referred to as a “disturbance/protest.” One occupant of the neighborhood, though, after driving slowly past the hostile crowd, stood in his front yard with a military-style rifle of his own.
Walls said the demonstrators organized the armed contingent after receiving threats online of an armed counter-protest.
“We were warned that we were going to be met with violence,” Walls said. “We have the capability to respect ourselves, to defend ourselves.”
After the protest in the neighborhood, the group reconvened at the nearby Pulpit Rock Trailhead at 6:45 p.m. to recognize the exact time, one year earlier, when Bailey was shot. The crowd stood in silence for a full minute, before resuming a final round of chants.