In Rural Southern Colorado And Northern New Mexico, Protesters Come Out For Police Reform

Jun 9, 2020

Protesters across Colorado and the country continue to call for police reforms in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. In recent days, people in smaller communities have also joined in, including in La Junta and Westcliffe. There have also been protests along the southern Colorado border. 

KRCC's Andrea Chalfin reached out to reporter Bill Knowles from the World Journal based in Walsenburg for a glimpse at what's happening there. The paper covers Las Animas and Huerfano counties, and Colfax County in New Mexico.
 

Bill Knowles, World Journal [BK]: There were small protests last week in Trinidad. Our reporters estimate about 60 people attended the protest there but you have to remember this is a town of about 9,000.

The protest took place at two locations, Central Park next to the Trinidad Triggers baseball stadium, and people with signs stood at the center of the roundabout in front of the city's visitor center as well.

Andrea Chalfin, KRCC [AC]: And there were also protests in Raton, New Mexico, 20 miles south of Trinidad.

BK: Yes, over the weekend, there was another small gathering that 35 people attended, though that included about five members of the press. It was pretty quiet and subdued. One police officer showed up and handed out water bottles.

Estrella Delicia Vargas was one of the protest organizers.  She spoke to the World Journal’s Conor Orr: 

"We expressed to Raton police department that we were not going to interfere with traffic...we were not going to interfere with them. We wanted to show that we can do things and have our voices be heard but in a beautiful peaceful way."

AC:  What seems to be the motivation behind these protests?  Has there been a history of alleged police brutality in the area?

BK: Like elsewhere in the country, the death of George Floyd is the motivation, but there have been some issues here locally. Perhaps most prominently is the death last year of Lawrence Lovato, a Hispanic man, in Trinidad. A call came in about a suspicious person at a convenience store, and police stopped 46-year old Lovato on an entrance ramp onto I-25. Police say he tried to elude them and allege that he pulled a gun. Police ended up shooting him and killing him.  It caused anger in the community over possible excessive force, but the officers were ultimately cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

AC:  How were the protests received by the community?

BK: Before the protest in Trinidad happened, there was some concern on community Facebook pages about the protests turning violent. Local businesses are already reeling after losing weeks of revenue, and the idea that violence could accompany protests makes people nervous.  At this point though, that hasn’t happened.

AC: Are there more planned? 

BK:  Not that I’ve seen, but there are protests in other areas like La Veta, where they’re planning to hold them every Monday.