Having lived in Erie for close to 30 years, I have seen it change from a small, rural town that was once the center of Colorado’s coal-mining to a bustling downtown with 4-star restaurants where there was once only two bars. When I moved here it literally was dirt roads, 500 houses, and a population of 1,200. Today it is nearly 30,000 residents and just about to reach 10,000 homes.
Erie has experienced growing pains over the years, but some of the most combative experiences haven’t necessarily come from Old Town vs New Erie or even Weld vs Boulder.
If we look at how Erie votes, it is by large a Blue town these days. In fact, in 2016 and 2020 Erie was a strong Bernie town. The last two town elections saw the pro Oil & Gas conservative population get approximately 25% of the total votes.
Erie used to have a reputation for a toxic community page. Erie has had a loud, vocal group that has earned a reputation for uncivil conduct on social media. (Although most towns have these same voices steeped in Trump’s rhetoric.) In fact, less than two years ago our Editor, who is Native American, saw the worst of this when he posted we were doing our DiverCity Series featuring local movers and shakers of non-white skin tones, differently-abled, elderly, women, etc. Of the 522 comments, some calling us racist for talking about race, there were definitely people who came out and spoke up. But this loud minority also had many people afraid to speak out as they did not want to experience the same attacks they had seen previously.
Our local police department is well-trained in Community Policing and Restorative Justice. We do not have the same issues with the police that many other communities do. Erie’s demographic makeup is approximately 82.3% white, 10% Hispanic, 5.26% Asian, and .029% black.
So why hold a local March for racial justice if Erie is mostly a progressive town without a lot of crime and a police department that leads the region in practices and has very few people of color?
Our friend who is black was out tending to her patch in the Community Garden when a woman called the police on her even after she told her she lived here. A young biracial girl had the police called on her by a neighbor while she was out jogging. My neighbor who is black told me he doesn’t want his teenage son out after dark. While he feels most of the neighbors are good, he fears that one.
Erie residents recognize that even in Erie systematic racism exists. We have seen it show up in our schools, in our gardens, and on our social media. More importantly, the residents realize how damaging the United States justice system is around the country and they care about changing the landscape when it comes to racial biases and overuse of force by police towards IBPOC and marginalized populations.
Community Organizer Mecca Scott: “It is up to each of us to reach out to one another and actively seek to be better neighbors. To ask when we don’t understand, and truly listen to the response. We must become comfortable with uncomfortable conversations and shed the bias that we all carry. Spread word about this Saturday’s important march to support #blacklivesmatter and stand in solidarity with our Black neighbors near and far, who are so often oppressed by systematic racism. Enough is enough.
Community Organizer Justin Brooks: “The times of sitting on the sideline, while citizens are denied their right to due process is over. For far too long, we have granted the benefit of the doubt when someone dies at the suspicion of having committed a crime. We see black men and women indicted for their own murders, as if to confirm our own biases relative to their character. The time for action is now. We must deprogram our own biases to treat everyone with dignity and respect regardless of their skin color or lifestyle. Racial profiling and weaponized discomfort is dangerous and must stop now. The notion that non-white people are more likely to commit criminal behavior or be of lower moral character must end. “
Originally the group was small that was planning the march but it quickly exploded to over 50 people involved in planning the event, and almost 600 people who have said they are coming to Saturday’s march. The Police Chief is joining, along with the Mayor and town trustees.
The Town of Erie published a historical Juneteenth Proclamation and had local community members read it aloud broadcast via the town channel.
The Town of Erie called a Community Meeting to coordinate and facilitate an action-oriented conversation around race. The focus was on how we can work to break down the barriers of bias in an effort to eradicate racism and create a community where all feel welcome and valued. It is imperative that action is taken by citizens, our police, and town administration to continue the quest for this sort of community.
The residents of Erie are hosting a Solidarity March for racial injustice this Saturday, June 13th at 11:30 AM, kicking off at the Erie Community Center. Recognizing the issues that Erieites face this March is planned by a newly formed group, Being Better Neighbors. They plan future Porchfront Actions including movie nights, book readings, and happy hour get-togethers exactly where you expect to find them by the title: the porch front.
We are thrilled to see this action coming together in this bedroom community. When a mostly white, suburban town sees the need for change, we hope others will too.
From the organizer’s event page:
//Erie is a vibrant and attractive community, with beautiful views, excellent schools, and peaceful neighborhoods. Yet, it is not immune from the issues of bias and racism. The Being Better Neighbors: Solidarity Against Racial Injustice march is an outward display of our personal commitment to stop the willful disregard for black lives by not speaking up for injustices that are frequently encountered by people of color.
This march represents a willingness to work at overcoming our own biases and truly strive to get to know our neighbors, especially the ones who do not look like us. It is our commitment to not only continue community conversations on topics that may sometimes be uncomfortable but more importantly, take action as a town to ensure that bias, racism, and discrimination have no place in the Town of Erie.
Join us this Saturday, June 13th, as we march from the Erie Community Center to Town Hall. Meetup 11:30 am (Erie Community Center), step off for the march at 12:30 pm.
*Bring your own mask, water, sunscreen, and any other personal items for the march. Erie Police Department will provide light refreshments and join in solidarity on the march.
** 6 feet social distancing from people outside of your family is important, as we also want to ensure we keep our families safe from COVID-19.//
A Safe Haven, A Message from Chief Stewart, Erie Town Police
//On Thursday afternoon, I met a resident who was so expressive, so thoughtful and had so many emotions about what was occurring in the world today in regards to the death of Mr. George Floyd, Ms. Breonna Taylor and many others of color.
She shared with me some interactions as they pertained to the Town of Erie and the Erie Police Department. Most were good, but one was not.
We talked for an hour and I could tell she was conflicted because her father was retired law enforcement. She is bi-racial. I was extremely impressed with her taking the time to come and have a difficult conversation with me. It took tremendous courage.
I can say without question, I learned something about this young lady and something about myself.
The moment I took the oath of office I swore to serve and protect. These incidents go against everything I believe in; the sanctity of life, the dignity of the human spirit, and our responsibility as humans, but most particularly as police officers, to treat all people with respect.
I know there is a path forward. It continues with our willingness to listen, learn, dialog and connect with those we serve.
I take great pride in being your police chief and leading the Erie Police Department. We have amazing individuals working here. They are committed, motivated and dedicated people who endeavor to give their best to you, every day. Please know the Erie Police Department supports the rights of ALL, no matter the race, ethnicity, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, or other specific group or segment of our community. All persons of color are welcome to come into THEIR police department or to call on us at any time! The Erie Police Department and the men and women who serve as YOUR police officers shall provide a safe haven for ALL.//
ERIE POLICE DEPARTMENT
1000 Telleen Avenue | P.O. Box 510?Erie, CO 80516 | www.erieco.gov/police | 303-926-2800