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Opinion: It’s time we open our eyes to our community’s suffering 

click to enlarge JONATHAN NISHIMOTO
  • Jonathan Nishimoto

By Jasmine Dillavou

click to enlarge Jasmine Dillavou - IAN DEDRICKSON
  • Ian Dedrickson
  • Jasmine Dillavou
My name is Jasmine Dillavou. I am an artist and activist here in Colorado Springs, and invest my life in telling the stories of Latinx culture. It is my passion and my duty as a creative to tell these stories and to tell them honestly, with love and compassion.

May 30 started on an empowering note. I was so riled up, ready to take a stand next to my community — I was ready to show my town that racist police have no place here — with my sign, and my boots laced tight.

At first, we assembled at Acacia Park with signs in our hands, masked up, ready to show support for George Floyd, who died after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, and take a stand against police violence. The gatherings that afternoon were peaceful and loving. Folks passed water out to everyone, Food not Bombs was feeding folks in the park; it really felt good.

As things mellowed out, many began heading home. It was getting chilly and much of the energy from marching around downtown had faded.

As the night began creeping in, some friends and I found ourselves on South Nevada Avenue, huddled in the car wash parking lot. We had followed the crowd of young folks who decided to keep marching and chanting. Their energy had not died. You could hear, “BLACK LIVES MATTER, DON’T SHOOT, JUSTICE FOR GEORGE FLOYD” everywhere.

I noticed police blocking off street corners, and then alleyways — and then next thing I know, there’s police everywhere. Literally everywhere. Where had they been all day while we were marching? And it wasn’t just CSPD in blue shirts and sunglasses — I’m talking riot gear, batons, guns. It went from marching and chanting outside of the car wash to hell in seconds. Kids, all black and brown, took the front line, chanting and holding hands and getting LOUD, like people who are hurting do.

From the sidewalk, I watched riot cops line up, and suddenly a crowd of kids (literally 16- and 17-year-olds) were screaming and running towards us. Their eyes were puffed out red from tear gas, alarms were shooting off everywhere — all this within moments of the cops advancing. We had a jug of milk to help cool the kids’ crying eyes, but it didn’t last long, there were so many hurt people everywhere.

The CSPD began yelling dispersal orders while telling people to go home, and seconds later, smoke began filling the air. They were tossing tear gas right into the parking lot where we were standing while we were trying to get these kids’ eyes cleared. I looked for an exit and saw a young girl in torn jeans. Her knee had been shot with a rubber bullet, and she was in horrible pain. Her friends (all maybe 17 to 18 years old) were looking for a medic we knew was nearby. All her friends rallied around her and got her to safety. She was just a kid.

Everything started moving so fast, there wasn’t any time to react or think. Folks, all black and brown, began lining up and heading toward the police line that now spanned an entire intersection. These police officers were geared up to the nines, and the community members on the front lines were in T-shirts and shorts. Something about this fight seemed pretty unfair.

click to enlarge @HEYAYYONE
  • @HeyAyyOne

Anger turned to rolling energy and things began getting wild, as they do. The community members kept creeping in, some playing music, some chanting, some on bikes, some on foot, some with masks, some with flags. My friends and I hung back as tear gas crept up and down South Nevada, thick as syrup.

We just stood and stared at the chaos. I’ve never seen CSPD act with such unwavering anger and violence, and for that I am lucky. I’ve never seen so many frightened young people. This was not what I was expecting. I don’t know what I was expecting.

Eventually, we realized we were unprepared for this fight, and I’ll tell you, THIS IS A FIGHT — when such intense emotion is met with fearmongering violence.

We walked back to our house nearby to regroup, the sizzle of tear gas and screams echoing behind us. I promise you, it was as dramatic as it sounds. As we walked, large white vans and unmarked police cars began speeding in. People spread out across the street, teens of color and allies at the forefront.

I believe in the people of Colorado Springs, I believe black lives matter; I believe that we’re sitting at the crutch of a tree, which has grown from a civil rights seed. I believe we have a choice; I believe we have to be brave. I believe we are all responsible for protecting black folks. I believe we are responsible for keeping racist cops out of our community. I believe it’s time we open our eyes through the drips of blood and milk and tear gas and — when we finally do — we will see a whole community with their hands up, all screaming in unison. 

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