At least 70 counterprotesters showed up Friday night to disrupt the weekly Black Lives Matter rally held in Buckley Park, creating a tense scene of us-versus-them in the heart of downtown Durango.
It was the first large counterprotest at the weekly Black Lives Matter event in Durango, which began after George Floyd was killed by Minnesota police in May. Recent social media posts leading up to Friday’s rally discussed organizing a counterprotest, with commenters vowing to bring guns, which prompted concern among police. The protesters shouted chants and carried signs. They stood on the opposite side of Main Avenue from the park.
“I’m upset. I am hurt by people who I thought were my family,” said Sharina Ramsay-Adams, who attended the Black Lives Matter rally, adding she knew people across the street. She identified as an American first, but said growing up as a person of color in Durango, she was called “nasty” names.
“I will not be intimidated, and I feel like they were trying to intimidate,” she said.
In Buckley Park, a crowd of about 300 Black Lives Matter supporters listened to speakers. Normally, the event is calm with families in attendance. It takes on the atmosphere of an outdoor classroom.
This week, speakers talked about peaceful protesting and Martin Luther King Jr., against a backdrop of revving motorcycles and chants of “America” and “all lives matter” from the other side of the street. Some of the counterprotesters carried guns on their hips. One had nunchucks in his back pocket.
“Back the blue,” chanted counterprotesters.
“We’re all going to have different perspectives,” said a Black Lives Matter speaker as the chant continued. “It is important for us to uplift.”
“Back the blue,” the counterprotesters chanted.
When speakers said it was the first time they had taken a leadership role of a movement, the crowd applauded with a standing ovation. The counterprotesters chanted “U-S-A” louder.
City Councilor Barbara Noseworthy said she has attended nearly all the Black Lives Matter events in Durango.
“It’s important for people to know that a city councilor is here. I want to be available,” she said.
She spoke to several people who showed up at the Black Lives Matter rally after hearing there would be a counterprotest, she said. Mayor Dean Brookie, who also attended, said he was proud to see passionate citizens in a safe public forum.
Officers from the Durango Police Department lined the edges of Buckley Park, in greater numbers this week because of the counterprotest. At the beginning of the night, a few counterprotesters shook hands with officers as they marched around the block.
Kristeen Melrose of Durango said she was protesting the Black Lives Matter event because she felt her freedoms were being taken and she wanted to support police.
“We’re all American. All of our lives are being torn apart,” she said. “They’re rallying for somebody who is supposed to be a hero? It’s destroying our community. None of these people even know him,” referring to George Floyd.
Lu Carter said the division “sucks,” and that holding police accountable doesn’t begin with protests, rather, it begins with upper management. Other counterprotesters said they were there to support “America” and the idea that all lives matter.
Many said they wanted justice for 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant of North Carolina who was killed last week, saying he was a white boy killed by a Black man.
“What about all the white kids, like Cannon?” said Theresa Morris, a Durango resident. “They’re not saying his name.”
Both sides of Main Avenue remained crowded as speakers began to wrap up the Black Lives Matter event around 8 p.m.
“Everyone’s experience is valid,” said one speaker, adding that people have to hold themselves accountable. “How you respond to the situation is of the utmost importance.”