Progressive groups came together Friday morning to offer Coloradans a hopeful, peaceful alternative to the divisiveness and negativity they see in Donald Trump.
Led by ProgressNow Colorado, groups like NARAL Colorado, Generation Latino, Protégete, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and others showed their disappointment with Trump’s message by building a 9-foot wall made of cardboard boxes at Civic Center Station. At the end of the day, the boxes were removed and filled with donations, which were given to Growing Home, a nonprofit that provides support to needy families.
The symbolism was unmistakable. At the same time, Trump – famous for his promise to build a wall along the US-Mexico border – was speaking at the nearby Colorado Convention Center.
The front side of the wall, which faced Civic Center Park’s amphitheater, showed a painted banner with the message “Con paz, con amor, con todos” — “With peace, with love, with everyone.”
Ian Silveri, Executive Director of ProgressNow, said that the idea for the project came from a vision of unity.
“We decided to build a wall to help build community and bring people together to do good things,” he said.
He emphasized the importance of diverging from dominant media narratives.
“We don’t want to be violent, we don’t want to protest, we don’t want to feed into that narrative that’s going on all over the country,” he said.
As Silveri spoke with The Independent, some of the dynamics he warned against were emerging at the Western Conservative Summit, where Trump was speaking. Trump protesters and supporters began fighting, and the police had to intervene.
The event included a diverse mix of organizations. Justine Sandoval, campus organizer at NARAL Colorado, said that the groups identified a common sense of alarm at Trump’s presence in Denver.
“We realized that we had to be vocal about our opposition,” she said.
NARAL is a leading pro-choice political group, and Trump has established an extreme anti-abortion position. He recently advocated for “some sort of punishment” for women who choose to have abortions. “It’s not totally clear where he stands because he flip-flops,” Sandoval said. “But it’s clear that he’s anti-choice.”
This morning’s event was unorthodox in its lack of a speaker or rallying point. Instead, the groups spent all morning decorating the wall and speaking with visitors.
Generation Latino, a group that advocates on behalf of Colorado Latinos, participated in the event as a show of strength against language they see as hateful to their community. Executive Director Maria Handley advised Trump not to underestimate her community.
“Latinos have a voice and they will use it at the ballot box,” she said.
Silveri spoke of a sense of urgency driven by what he sees as an unprecedented demise in political discourse.
“I’ve worked in politics 10 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “We can’t have a civil debate anymore.”
Photo credit: Eliza Carter