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Photo Essay: A peaceful stand

Hundreds gather in Rifle for a Black Lives Matter vigil in the wake of death of George Floyd in Minneapolis

Jonathan Webster of Glenwood Springs hands out signs as he waits for the Black Lives Matter vigil to begin in front of City Hall in Rifle Tuesday. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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As the sun faded over the Roan Plateau, people gathered.

What started as a small-town idea to support the black Lives Matter movement grew to a crowd of many more than 200 people filling the plaza outside of the Rifle City Hall on Tuesday.

More than 200 people crowded into the plaza in front of the Rifle City Hall Tuesday to mourn the lives lost due to racial injustice police, including George Floyd. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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Organizer Rebecca Trent of Rifle said she was stunned by the turnout to mourn those who have died due to racial injustice in America.

One after another residents stood in front of the large crowd to talk during the vigil. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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“Being in such a small town all the time, I was born in Glenwood and raised here in Rifle, seeing the inequality that is going on throughout our entire country is disgusting to me, I cannot even fathom it,” Trent said. “The passive racism that exists in this community as well is the reason we wanted to get together and do this. To show that all the people of color and of the black men and women that are here now, that we are with them and we stand for them.” 

Members of the crowd gathered for Tuesday’s vigil hold hands as people speak during the event in Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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In a showing of uniformity and to ensure that no one was focused on them, but instead on the injustices that were talked about during the vigil, the organizers and many in attendance dressed in all black. 

Guilari Ruiz of Rifle comforts Zyanni Vandoren of New Castle as they observe a moment of silence during Tuesday nights vigil in front of City Hall in Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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Residents from Rifle, and nearby Silt, Parachute, New Castle and Glenwood Springs stood shoulder to shoulder together in support of the movement. Most wore masks — a sign of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. People from as far away as Grand Junction and Denver also came.

People begin to file into the plaza in front of the Rifle City Hall Tuesday for a Black Lives Matter vigil. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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Led by Chief Tommy Klein the Rifle Police Department helped keep the large crowd safe as they navigated the traffic to cross Railroad Avenue as people headed home for the day Tuesday.

“The clear majority are very polite and respectful, one or two have been edgy, but that is to be expected, it’s just part of protesting your First Amendment rights. We understand that, and we understand that some people are not happy with us,” Klein said.

Members of the crowd sing an improptu version of “We are the World” to start the vigil Tuesday in Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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After short speeches from the organizers, and several chants of support led by all in attendance, one by one people came forward and shared stories of inequality and offered support to family, friends and community members of color.

Candles were handed out for visitors to Tuesday’s vigil to hold they mourned for those who have died due to racial injustice. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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“I feel it is important to always stand up for what you believe in, especially to stand and make a point. Just showing that all lives are equal, and trying to find the systematic racism happening in America for hundreds of years — just to try and support the people around us,” Glenwood Springs resident Jonathan Webster said.

More than 200 people packed the plaza in front of the Rifle City Hall Tuesday for a Black Lives Matter vigil. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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Tuesday’s peaceful vigil is one of thousands that have been held across the country, sparked by the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.

Standing silent residents hold signs of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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“I have two sons at home, we are Latinos, and I’ve talked to a lot of my friends. A lot of us have kids now, and I asked them. ‘How do you explain George Floyd to your child. At what age do you do that,’” Rifle resident Steven Arauza said. “For me it’s this tension you live with as a person of color in this country, and it’s not a safe assumption that white people around you understand that. That’s what drives me to be out here, to show some support.”

The glow of candles light up the faces of people attending Tuesday nights vigil in Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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Organizers closed the vigil with the lighting of the candles and a moment of silence for those who have died due to racial injustice. As the crowd dispersed some left their candles on a picnic table near a makeshift memorial with pictures of the fallen.

More than 200 people packed the plaza in front of the Rifle City Hall Tuesday for a Black Lives Matter vigil. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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“We are just here to show our support, so they know they have support from across the country, from the capital to our little small town,” Trent said.

kmills@postindependent.com

Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein directs traffic as residents cross Railroad Avenue after Tuesday’s vigil downtown. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)
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