You are here
Home > Local News > Activism >

The History of Violent Protest in Colorado Springs, in a Nutshell.

JesusGET THIS. I heard a reverend-person yesterday lecturing newish activists about their need for nonviolence training, which she was volunteering to lead. She was also offering rubber wristbands for her graduates to wear at demonstrations, so that police could differentiate between protesters. She told us she’d ask officers to scrutinize those not wearing bands as being the potential troublemakers. This, she assured everyone, would make it more difficult for outside groups to waylay the action. I kid you not. And she’s a church leader praised locally as something of an activist! HA! That’s a RAT!
 
I recognized the Springs “outsider” buggaboo so I thought I’d relate where it came from in a little piece I’ll call The History of Violent Protest in Colorado Springs. Ready? It won’t take long.

So what violence have I seen in my fairly full-time participation over a dozen years, multiple wars and as many elections? ZERO. That’s right. I’ve seen a lot of brutal handling by police, but by the hands of protesters? Nothing.

Yep. The History of Violent Protest in Colorado Springs. The End.

For as much as local church leaders harp on nonviolence training, which includes, by the way, nonviolence bounderies that forbid even confrontational speech, you’d think they’d seen a need for it. They haven’t. For EVERY preacher and or disciple regurgitating nonviolence edicts, I’ve never seen ONE counterpart advocate for, nor commit, violence. It’s almost a laugh, if the practice wasn’t so damaging to public demonstrations. Colorado Springs street protests have been defanged to nothing, police needn’t bother to show up and they don’t. As a result, neither do protesters.

And it isn’t just that nonviolence dogma declaws the public beast. Religifying activism alienates intellectuals and atheists who woud prefer not to suffer the foolish god-justified claptrap. Monotheism is the engine which has always perpetuated privilege, enslavement, colonization and capitalism. Wtf.

Not satisfied to deputize citizens with the equivalent of TSA pre-boarding approval, clergy want to deprive their charges of the element of surprise. The Springs antiwar community keeps direct contact with law enforcement. I’m guessing protestations, if any, are now simply phoned in.

I JUST WANT TO PUNCH these nonviolence religion freaks for mutilating the impetus of budding activists. A newcomer’s anger is what drew them to protest in the first place. Of course as ministers that is their function. Social injustice is job security to church employees. They are about as likely to remedy inequity as the Pope. Sermons aim to temper their sheep’s natural anger at injustice. But enough about those assholes.

No matter the issue, antiwar, the environment, racism, homelessness, in Colorado Springs I’ve seen absolutely no public demonstration escalate to violence. Why then the ready queue of spiritual nuts so eager to innoculate every next wave of concerned citizen before they can even take to the street? It goes back to something that happened at an antiwar demonstration in 2003, although the lesson being drawn is not based on what really happened. That’s the bugaboo.

Palmer Park, 2003
In 2003 George W. Bush was about to initiate an illegal war against Iraq and public demonstrations were coordinated across the globe. In Colorado Springs nearly 2,000 people assembled in Palmer Park along Academy Boulevard. The Springs rally looked to eclipse the antiwar events planned in Denver, so some people came from Denver, or so it’s believed. In reality, the Springs antiwar community had an average age of 75 and hadn’t seen new faces for decades. The sight of younger participants led many to believe they were from elsewhere. Plus some of the younger protesters wore black, so word spread they were Anarchists. Scary.

For the usual reasons, the CSPD decided to close Academy Boulevard. When rally-goers realized their protest wasn’t being seen because motorists were no longer driving by, some decided to lead the crowds southward toward an intersection where traffic was still passing. Being that Academy Boulevard was cleared of cars, the most obvious route was on the street. There was no sidewalk and the park was congested with the parked cars of the attendees. No matter. The police formed a line and ordered the marchers back.

The police began to spray tear gas as the protesters retreated. Clouds of gas enveloped the crowds as they dispersed and struggled to get in their cars. The cars were gased with families and small children inside them, unable to drive away.

Across the globe that day, only two cities used tear gas against their antiwar protests: Athens and Colorado Springs. That’s how old timers like to tell the story. They’ll add that the police crackdown was prompted by unruly outsiders being violent with police. By which they mean, refusing to get off the street. Being assertive of one’s rights somehow became translated to mean impermissively violent.

Had these Emily Posts ever seen the footage of Selma?! These nonviolence sticklers are MLK idolators, yet just like Selma’s whites, they blame the victim.


Palmer Park, 2003

Protests in Colorado Springs immediately diminished in popularity and never again drew large numbers. Apparently when organizers called their members the apprehension was always “will it be safe?”

And so from that day, nuns and other clergy met regularly with Colorado Springs police to talk to them about protest plans, lest CSPD be surprised and overreact. That hasn’t stopped police from dragging us across streets or assaulting us in parking lots or on sidewalks. Oh to have merited it even once!

NOTE: I have omitted a couple of insider details about the 2003 rally because I wanted to relate the experience of the average participant. Yes, the event was advertized statewide and drew opponents of Bush’s war from along the Front Range. And yes, there was a strategy among frontline protesters to try to block an intersection. Most attendees didn’t know either of these facts. The local peace community was so insular that all new faces were looked upon as interlopers. But my point remains, there was no violence. Our freedom to assemble, wherever two thousand people need to go, is not abriged by congress nor by traffic laws. Rebuffing law enforcement’s attempt to disrespect civil liberties by standing, walking, sitting, or shouting, is not violence.

St Patricks Day, 2007

Nonviolently submitting to state violence is supposed to move onlookers to empathy. In 2007, was the Colorado Springs public moved by the police brutalization of nonviolent 70-yr-old Elizabeth Fineron, who later died of complications of her injuries? No, they cheered the police.

Sacrificing yourself may work in democracies with an empowered populace, but against fascism, as against the Mongols or Manifest Destiny, it’s abrogation of responsibility and suicide.

Nonviolence
Incorporating the dogma of “nonviolence” into what would otherwise be straightforward protest becomes problematic when nonviolence folks want to differentiate themselves. Those who are “othered” are then presumed to be planning violence. That’s a very serious charge. Inciting a riot is a crime. Plotting to overthrow a democracy is sedition.

Non-nonviolence does not equal intending-violence. For example, I do not advocate violence, I advocate solidarity.

I do not oppose people asking for NV training, or undertaking it, though I would prefer that nonviolence wasn’t marketed to newcomers who wouldn’t have thought to have needed it.

Why should “nonviolence” even have to come up, for example, at a discussion about a SIT-IN? Agreeing to sit is already a gesture which has capitulated the option to resist. A crowd can’t charge from the seated position. You can’t even defend yourself. The nonviolence is inherent.

Religious NV training is really about nonviolent communication, a whole other can of rotten worms. There is no evidence that Gandhi, MLK or the Flint factory sit-ins practiced that aberration.

If the challenge is to show public opposition to the sit-lie ordinance because it further oppresses the homeless, public energies need not be exhausted by habitually passive religious leaders and their idea of what direct action needs to be.

Yes, the anticipation of the supremacy of nonviolence over state violence is a religious expectation. Against fascism you’re asking for a miracle.

If preachers were activists they would lead their flocks into the street. Circulating among activists, those church leaders are opportunistic missionaries, looking for recruits among the disenchanted.

To be earnestly inclusive of faiths and non-faiths, leave you diety at home. Show respect for the “others” who don’t need the voodoo rationalizations you require to muster moral courage.

One thought on “The History of Violent Protest in Colorado Springs, in a Nutshell.

  1. Thanks, Eric. Now I see why you come to Denver to help us all the time. We need you, of course, while DPD arrests, removes, hassles, and lies about our activities. See you tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Top