Over 100 people turned out to Joe Rowell Park in Dolores Saturday evening for a peaceful vigil honoring George Floyd and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the nation.
The masked vigilgoers carried a colorful array of signs, protesting systemic racism and police brutality. Dolores resident Clare Vass, the vigil’s organizer, said the purpose of the event was to show love, support and respect.
She urged those in attendance to find peaceful ways to speak out against injustice.
“Our voices are heard by our fellow humans,” Vass said. “This is a vigil for black people. This is a vigil for our native neighbors. This is a vigil for all. We stand up for everybody, because silence means ‘I approve.’”
George Floyd, a black man in police custody at the time, died May 25 after Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes, despite Floyd’s pleas for air.
The vigil kicked off a little after 6 p.m., and after Vass spoke for a few minutes, attendees all took a moment of silence that lasted for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
“Felt like an eternity, didn’t it?” Vass said. “Imagine that same feeling but with somebody’s knee on your neck. That can’t happen anymore. It has to end.”
Vigil-goers then went into a call-and-response, with some shouting “Say his name!” to an answering cry of first “George Floyd” and then “Breonna Taylor,” a black emergency room technician shot in March by police in her Louisville, Kentucky, home.
A few speakers went to the podium to share their thoughts as well. Precious Collins, a member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, asked listeners to acknowledge the land and its history.
“We also have to understand where we come from,” Collins said. “Face our history and face our past so that we stop making the same mistakes over and over and over.”
She urged the crowd to look to their similarities as people.
“We are all Americans,” Collins said. “And I’m proud to stand up in front of you all. All of you that are white, and all of you that are black, and everyone else in between.”
A group of counter-protestors had gathered in a parking lot across the street, with American flags raised and music playing from their vehicles, but the two groups did not engage with one another during the vigil.