GRAND JUNCTION, CO – If, out of an abundance of caution, you’ve been avoiding much of the in-person protests that have consumed American cities big and small the past few weeks, but would still like to show your support, consider doing it from the safety of your car.
From 7:00 am till 9:00 am on Tuesday, July 7, commuters on their way to Aspen from Rifle will be greeted with a unique twist on the traditional, take-to-the-streets protest: volunteers from all over the Western Slope have been invited to take part in a demonstration of unity and will be positioned in safe, strategic locations. They’ll be holding up signs, each of which will post a message intended to provoke conversations and inspire hope.
Wes Campbell, who commutes to his own job in Aspen, was moved to organize the event in response to the wave of demonstrations that have swept the country since the Memorial Day weekend murder of George Floyd.
“I wanted to do my part,” he explained in a recent phone interview. “I’ve been doing this commute for 7 years. I know that there’s a lot of protests, especially with Black Lives Matter, in the valley, and that’s created a lot of conversations and attention, but I wanted to do something that [targets] somebody that maybe didn’t have the choice.”
Campbell, who doesn’t use social media, enlisted the help of friends and family to spread the word. He’s since been approached by high school students, local churches, and other organizations who have expressed interest in participating.
“I purposely chose Rifle to Aspen because someone once told me that thousands of people commute through the valley [every day]. And it feels like we’re here in a bubble, but then [look at] what we saw in Rifle, with the bikers who came out who wanted to be counter-protestors. Racism is everywhere.”
A large Black Lives Matter Juneteenth demonstration on Friday evening, June 19, was interrupted by several hundred counter-protestors, many openly carrying firearms and arriving on motorcycles with their engines roaring.
The demonstration route includes up to 45 different stops, including bus stops, intersections, and bridges. Commuters and others who aren’t able to volunteer for the day but who still want to contribute are invited to show their support by installing signs in their rearview mirrors or even using car paint to inscribe messages on their vehicle.
Campbell reached out to Aspen law enforcement early in the planning process, and although the Aspen police department declined to officially support the action, Campbell says they were appreciative of his efforts to identify safe locations for volunteers.
“I did want to involve officers because of where we are at in this country and thought this would be a united front. I appreciate the officers I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” he said. “But they can’t take a stance and I respected that completely.”
For more information about the demonstration, contact Campbell at wescampbell05 AT icloud.com.