A candlelight vigil in Buckley Park mobilized hundreds of people Friday to demand broad structural reform after the violent deaths George Floyd and Breonna Taylor suffered at the hands of police.
But this time, attendees held up unlit candles and phone lights in intermittent rain showers.
Face masks and low-slung hoods and hats shielded speakers from both the rain and any backlash they might receive for speaking out, said Kate Suazo, a Durango resident who helped organize the event.
A circle of 350 people formed around the name “George Floyd” inscribed on a cardboard box, where flowers and candles have sat in Buckley Park for the past week. Flower pots from Main Avenue were placed behind the dedication.
A speaker, who did not want to be identified, asked the audience: “Look around. How many black people do you see? How many people of color do you see?”
“As a woman of color, that is how it is living in Durango,” the speaker said.
Compared with New York and the District of Columbia, where major protests and marches have stormed city streets since Floyd’s death, there is an obvious difference in demographics in Durango.
“But that doesn’t mean (racism) isn’t there,” Nicola Dehlinger, a Durango resident, said at the vigil.
Harrison Wendt, another Durango resident, said when he goes to Walmart with his friend, who is a black woman, they are followed.
“I’ve seen them chase her out the door even though she has a receipt,” Wendt said. “This movement is the entire country recognizing systematic racism, and we have to deal with it.”
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman and emergency room technician, was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers March 13. Police used a battering ram to crash into Taylor’s apartment with a “no-knock warrant,” and after a brief confrontation, they struck her with bullets eight times. Friday, June 5, the day of the vigil, was her birthday.
“This country was founded on racism and genocide,” Anna Garcia, a Durango resident, said. “This country has been waiting for this moment.”
Moving to Durango from a Texas border town was a culture shock for Garcia, who grew up in a community with mostly Hispanics, brown people like herself.
“It’s been intimidating, even though the majority of people have been nice to me,” Garcia said.
Emma Berne, a white woman from Durango, said this is the time for white people to “take a step backward and listen to what black people are saying.”
Anyone wondering what they can do to help should text the number 90975, the unidentified speaker said. The text sends a link to the app Outvote, which gives users updates about progressive organizations and causes and ways to help.
“There, now you have instructions,” she said.