Dozens gather on the steps of Colorado Springs City Hall as part of national peaceful protest

Hands up, don’t shoot!”

Demonstrators gathered on the steps of City Hall in downtown Colorado Springs on Thursday night to join thousands of people around the country in a peaceful protest called National Moment of Silence. Demonstrators raised their hands and their signs to protest the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was killed Saturday by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

Brown, 18, was shot multiple times after an altercation with an officer. It’s unclear what led to the shooting, and witness reports contradict each other.

The Colorado Springs “solidarity rally,” organized by the NAACP State Conference of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming, drew a diverse crowd of people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. They held signs and posed to take a photo that organizers said would be sent to “friends in Ferguson.”

“Injustice anywhere, in Ferguson, Mo. – which is 841 miles from where we stand – or right here in Colorado Springs, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” regional NAACP president Rosemary Harris Lytle told the crowd.

For attendees, the event was an opportunity to discuss the ways culture, race, socioeconomic status, violence and police relations intersect.

“I think it’s important that there are people in Colorado who support this. Even people who aren’t black,” said 24-year-old Nikia Schultz.

Her friend, 26-year-old Mark Vincent, agreed.

“We have a police force in every American city like that,” he said, referring to the protective gear, guns and tear gas officers in Ferguson have deployed as racially charged unrest has escalated in a town that is 70 percent black.

“How many times has this story been told?” Vincent asked.

Schultz said the militarized appearance of the police force scares her. “The idea to serve and protect,” she said. “I don’t know what that means anymore.”

State Rep. Tony Exum, D-Colorado Springs, recalled being pulled over by police for no apparent reason when he was younger. He said he advised his two sons and his four grandkids to comply with law enforcement officials even when they know they didn’t do anything wrong. That gives them an opportunity to share their story about the injustice later, he explained.

“I know it’s not right, but the way we address it, the way we fight that, is with a united voice,” he said.

While Exum said he doesn’t agree with the violence being reported in Ferguson, he said he understands the frustration.

“It’s important that we get together to talk about these things,” he said at the rally. “We need to put not only a voice to it, but a heart to it.”

Exum added that Thursday’s solidarity supporters didn’t come to the steps of City Hall to scrutinize the facts of the case.

“The facts will come out,” he said. “But we want to come out and show our solidarity and care for the (Brown) family. That could have been my son. That could have been my brother. That could have been my nephew.”

 

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