Since the start of 2017, civil unrest in the U.S. has grown and intensified to what seems to be a boiling point. Protesters around the country continue to gather in response to issues of violations of both human rights and truth. These issues tend to be heavily politicized and many protestors are considered “liberal snowflakes.” This label is thrown into question when Colorado Springs is brought into the picture. Despite a deeply conservative reputation, residents have shown up in droves to make their voices heard.
Though the sudden surge of protests and rallies downtown may seem to suggest otherwise, Colorado Springs is known as a conservative bastion in a blue state for many reasons. In addition to voting reliably red since 1968, Colorado Springs is a town that thrives on military and industry areas of the job market which tend to lean conservative. For example, the Air Force Academy, three other air force bases and another army base all call Colorado Springs their home. In fact, much of the local economy revolves around the defense industry. Some of the largest employers here invest in projects in the field, like missile defense.
Despite the ‘redpuation’ of the Springs, the first explosion of community involvement came with the Women’s March. In addition to much of the rest of the world, on Jan. 21 (the day following the inauguration), Colorado Springs saw a radical turnout of support; instead of the expected crowd of 500, nearly 7,000 people attended the march. While that number may not compare much with Denver, it rivals the marches in major cities like Dallas and Houston.
The momentum did not halt after this initial outbreak. The next week, hundreds gathered outside of town hall to protest the renewal of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. While it did not draw the same volume of protestors that the Women’s March, it was still surprising for some to see so much support for the water protectors in a county whose blood runs Red. After rallying at town hall, those in attendance marched through town while sticking to the sidewalks. Though there was some notable pushback from Trump supporters during the Women’s March (some on the sidelines resisted with shouts of “Trump is President, duh!”), it was actually a challenge to find opposition at the anti-pipeline protest.
While the average liberal arts student who finds themselves in conservative territory may expect tension between the two worlds, some locals were actually unsurprised. For many of the residents of Colorado Springs, these issues have evolved beyond politics. “This isn’t a liberal value or a conservative value, this is water, this is our water,” said Jesse Rochet (in regards to DAPL) with a smile and a bit of a laugh, almost like he thought the statement should have gone without saying. Rochet is an alum of CC’s MAT program and an avid water protector, and he sees a lot of potential for involvement in the Springs. “Colorado Springs is such a mixed community and I think that’s the thing that so often people think ‘oh well it’s just one thing’ and no it’s not,” he added. “It is kind of a microcosm; we definitely have a spectrum here in the community.”
Rochet isn’t the only townsperson who feels this way though. Loring Werbel has lived in Colorado Springs for a couple of decades, and he believes Colorado Springs gets a bum rap. “I believe that the town really is pretty radical once you kind of get to know it . . . It just has this conservative undercurrent that confuses people,” said Werbel.
In fact, Werbel predicts a new era of civil action in Colorado Springs, “They don’t realize how active the community really is and I think that that was proven over the last couple years, especially since Trump has come in. You know we saw the Women’s March bring in 7,000, and [the pipelines] bring several hundred. I think this is going to be constant from now on.”
Werbel’s prophecy seems to be coming true. On Feb. 4, Colorado Springs saw another march, this time in support for immigrants and their families. Many future rallies are already lining up as well. Downtown can expect more DAPL resistance in March, and a ‘Rally for Science’ on Earth Day in April. Though many of the protestors find themselves unsure of the fate of their friends, the environment, and the country, they will not stop their voices from being heard.