Aram Sahakyan in front of the Administration Building

Aram Sahakyan Organizes Peaceful Demonstration in Fort Collins, Colorado

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FORT COLLINS, Col.— Another round of protests was sparked in Fort Collins on Tuesday, June 2, after an Instagram post went viral inviting people to join in a unity march.

The independently organized protest began on the Oval in front of the Administration Building, where there was a short speech, followed by a march to City Hall along Howes Street.

The march was a peaceful demonstration unaffiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, according to organizer Aram Sahakyan; however, it was inspired by and dedicated to it.

Aram Sahakyan leads the protesters

The lawn in front of the Administration Building was nearly full as protesters gathered. According to the Fort Collins Police Department (FCPD), there is no estimate for crowd attendance, as they don’t have a mechanism to provide accurate data.

During the march, protesters chanted “Black lives matter” and “Don’t shoot” as they took up several city blocks in length.

Sahakyan, a recent philosophy graduate of Colorado State University (CSU), shared a post inviting others to join him in a walk to City Hall to celebrate the Black Lives Matter movement and support racial unity. The post that was originally shared on Instagram quickly reached larger audiences and was shared throughout Facebook and Reddit. The post asked attendees to wear a mask and remain socially distant, and strictly condemned any acts of violence or aggression.

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“As a person of Armenian descent, I was raised to cry for justice for the Armenian Genocide of 1915,” Sahakyan wrote in a text message to the Collegian. “It doesn’t make sense for me to cry for justice for that but not for the [Black Lives Matter] movement. Social media advocacy wasn’t cutting it. I felt like I needed to do more.”

At one point, crowd members were invited to give speeches addressing fellow protesters and the need for protest. During these speeches, Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda addressed the crowd, expressing the FCPD’s direct support.

“This is your time, and I am only here just to let you know that I hear you, the Fort Collins Police Department hears you and we march with you,” Swoboda said. “You are welcome at the front of our police department every day. I get it and I hear you. We stand with you.”

As protesters marched from City Hall to Old Town Square, officers walked with the crowd and chatted with them. During nine minutes of silence where protesters laid on the ground with their hands behind their backs, officers took a knee in solidarity.

Swoboda released statements in relation to the protests going on within Fort Collins and the death of George Floyd.

“We share your desire for an end to police brutality. No good cop wants bad cops in this profession,” Swoboda wrote in the press release. “We stand with you in creating an equitable, inclusive community where people of color feel safe. We acknowledge that historical and present-day racism exists in our community. It needs to be addressed and stopped.”

Eduardo Gomez Perez also attended the protest after viewing the post on Reddit and explained why being active and vocal is so important for the Black Lives Matter movement.

“If you want to support the cause, you have to be vocal because the voice is what makes it known, [what] makes it strong,” Gomez Perez said. “You can do other things aside from protesting. I know people are afraid of judgment or whatnot, but if you’re afraid of the judgment of people who are against this, then you need to look at yourself and the people you surround yourself with.”

CSU is not innocent of racism and hate. We need to see what they’re going to do to back their statements up. — Aram Sahakyan

Jamir Constance, a recent hospitality management graduate of CSU, expressed why he felt it was important for a community like Fort Collins to take part in protests.

“It’s one of the nicest communities I’ve ever been in,” Constance said. “One of the whitest though and to see all these white people come out and support me and people who look like me, it’s pretty incredible. Just to see the people that have come in to realize the fight and the struggle and the pain that we go through, although they’ve never experienced it and they never will, speaks volumes.”

Sahakyan also expressed the need to do more beyond just protesting. He explained that while protests are important for garnering the public’s attention, people also have to sign petitions, vote and donate. Sahakyan also requested that Colorado State University take action, stating that CSUPD and President Joyce McConnell must make a statement.

“CSU is not innocent of racism and hate,” Sahakyan wrote in a text message to the Collegian. “We need to see what they’re going to do to back their statements up.”

Excerpted from the article in the Rocky Mountain Collegian (June 2, 2020) by Meagan Stackpool.


 

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