Hundreds participated in two rallies Saturday morning on Main Street in Cortez.
“Walk for Justice and Peace” was organized by St. Barnabas Episcopal Church and has been held every Saturday in July. Marchers carry signs calling for social justice, racial equality and police reform.
“Our congregation wanted an event to bring awareness to wider issues,” said Pastor Doug Bleyle.
JFargo’s Family Dining & Micro Brewery has organized the “Back The Blue” rally during the same time every week to support local law enforcement and first responders. The restaurant frequently h hosted events along with first responders.
“It’s about standing up for our freedom. We are a free country, and we want to keep it that way,” said Jeff Coulon. “We are showing support for our first responders and police. They are relied on by the community.”
The Back the Blue riders honked horns, displayed American flags and held up “All Lives Matter” signs. There were “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, Trump2020 flags and a few Confederate flags.
The peace and justice group marched down one side of Main Street, then the other, and stood on the corners with messages of “Justice for All,” “Black Lives Matter,” “End Police Brutality” and “Love Conquers All.”
“We let our signs speak for us,” said Dawn Robertson. “Keeping silent helps to deescalate.”
Participants said past rallies were peppered with rude and profane shouts and obscene gestures from the vehicles, many of which revved their engines.
“It is community-driven event to show support for our country and law enforcement. It’s not held to cause problems,” said Jeff Brand.
Justice marcher Sylvia Clahchischilli said she marched because “fighting for equal rights is patriotic and American.”
Saturday, there were outbursts and an occasional heated sidewalk discussion. But mostly Back the Blue riders and peace marchers waved at each other as they passed each other on the crowded street. Peace marchers wore masks, and Back the Blue riders did not, symbolizing the divide on the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A cacophony of horns came from the rally participants, and passersby joined in with their horns, waving and raising fists, but it was hard to know whom they supported. At one point, members of both rallies were together on the sidewalk waving flags and signs to traffic going by.
“Passions are running high right now on both sides,” said one man watching from the street.
In mid-May, JFargos announced plans for a rally at 10 a.m. May 16 as a “call for action for reopening of our county.” It encouraged participants to wear face coverings.
On June 26, organizers announced its plan for a ride support local law enforcement officers, to be held on Main Street at 10 a.m., July 12.
St. Barnabas Episcopal Church announced its Walk for Justice and Peace in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter on June 16, with marches set for Saturdays in June and July.
Black Lives Matter protests swept across the nation after George Floyd, 46, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while he was handcuffed. The officer was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter May 29. He and several other officers were fired.
Police officers joined Black Lives Matter protests in Durango and Farmington and condemned Floyd’s death.