Attempting to support families directly effected by police violence can be a weird thing. You are forming a relationship with new people in the throws of a horrible grief. On top of that, your major basis for any formation of that relationship is reaching out as a total stranger, no idea if you will even have anything in common or how they will receive a stranger’s feeble attempts at giving comfort and offering aid. Your reaching out into a situation that fundamentally has no comfort. There is no aid anyone can give, no words anyone can say, that will take the pain of losing a loved one so violently and so publicly. A community in grief then gets to hear their loved one’s name smeared and their character attacked in an attempt to render their death justified and legitimate. To assure the public they were kept safe from yet another criminal that needed to be put down.
With all this in mind, I approached the vigil with two friends around 8:15pm, just a little late. Its an all too familiar sight for us, living in a city in the throws of such sudden new urban development. Some call it gentrification, others call it the new colonialism. An indigenous friend of ours who grew up here recently coined the phrase “communicide”. Whatever the words, its undeniable to anyone paying attention that the police are the hard enforcers of this new colonial system.
A crowd of about 35 people were gathered at the spot that Dion Avila was shot and killed, unarmed, in his car, in front of his wife and child. The spot is covered in security cameras, right downtown between 13th and 14th on Bannock Street. No doubt we won’t be seeing that footage anytime soon. We were given candles to hold, as Dion’s family and close friends stood around his wife and a preacher at the center. Supporters stood on the outside, and as I scanned the crowd I caught the eye of many familiar faces. All with that familiar look we all give each other like, “How many times are we going to be here, just like this?” all knowing the answer is probably not something we want to think too much about. The preacher gave a prayer, and asked attendees to comfort the family. No one spoke, until one of Dion’s family members broke the silence. Looking to Dion’s wife:
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to take away from you tonight…”
He began to explain who he was, how he had been close with Dion and wanted to support his wife and child. Then his sorrow turned to rage, directed firmly at the police:
“They didn’t have to do it like this….”
“Fuck the police!”
The night came to a somber close, after someone pulled their car up to the crowd to play some of Dion’s favorite songs. People mingled quietly, meeting each other, hugging, and writing messages of love and rage on the sidewalk in chalk. I talked to a friend off to the side, someone who I had met after his brother was killed by DPD. We talked about the only people to show up, besides Dion’s friends and family, yet again are the usual suspects. People representing other families who had loved ones taken by the Denver Police, a few independent journalists, and a sizable crew of anarchists and anti authoritarians. No where to be found were the paid organizers, the non profits, or any of the politicians that only pay lipservice to the communities that are being gunned down in the streets of Denver nearly every day. My friend isn’t a partisan. He has no strong belief in any political ideology. He has no stake in talking shit on some perceived opposing faction of activists. No opinion or critique to be validated by someone else’s failure.
“Not enough cameras here I guess”
He shrugs and smirks, shaking his head.
Fuck. This. Shit.
– just another posturing, arm chair militant