KD Nixon spoke to a crowd in Boulder’s Central Park on Friday morning and walked over to a police officer and shook his hand.
“I couldn’t grow up on that. I was afraid to do that,” said Nixon, a young black man who grew up in DeSoto, Texas and came to the University of Colorado to play football three years ago.
Nixon and dozens of other CU athletes, coaches, administrators and community members gathered for Buffs March on Friday. It is estimated that more than 500 people, including police officers, took part in the approximately mile-long walk to support the Black Lives Matter movement and protest racist injustice following George Floyd’s death.
On May 25, Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis, died after being detained by police. Floyd begged officers that he couldn’t breathe when they held him to the ground and an officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds.
Those who participated in Friday’s Buffs March took a knee at 8.46 a.m. and remained still with fists raised at the end of the walk.
“It’s a blessing,” Nixon said of seeing so many people participating in the protest. “This is authentic. This is no one trying to bring racism against people, you know. No, this is everyone versus police brutality. This is that everyone is standing together saying, “Let’s be stronger.” ”
Chauvin has been charged with second degree homicide. Three other agents on the spot were charged with “complicity in second-degree murder in the commission of a crime, and complicity in second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence,” said the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. All four officers were fired.
Floyd’s death is the latest high-profile incident in which the police murdered black people and led to demands for change and an end to racial injustice across the country. There have been protests and riots across the country in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. CU student athletes wanted to contribute in a peaceful way.
“I thought it was important to do this because it is not only because of George Floyd,” said CU footballer Chris Miller. “We’ve been doing this for all 400 years of slavery, the oppression, Jim Crow, you know, the following after the next. It’s sad to say this, but this stuff is normal. You see it happen to someone and it’s like “Damn it,” but in reality I know I can be it, I’m here and I stand up for this and I’m trying to be peaceful because we can’t be violent because it just didn’t work I’m just trying to use our platform whatever we can to help and change. ”
Head football coach Karl Dorrell, along with other coaches at CU, had virtual encounters with their teams, letting them express their views and frustration about racial injustice. Hearing those conversations led to ideas for action.
“Our team, including coaches, were all frustrated last weekend, and we came in on Monday as if we were tired of hearing all the rhetoric about how things need to change,” said Dorrell. “We wanted to do something with action to express what we stand for.
“We want to embrace each other’s cultures. We need to understand each other better. I spoke to my team that these are the best tools for change. … Look at this rise (of support) and that is what I think will open their eyes to how important their position is in our society. Our best change really is to empower our youth. ”
The Buffs March was led by Nixon and other student athletes at CU and then received support from coaches and administrators.
“I think the best part of this event is that our student athletes asked for it, and our department was all-in,” said CU women’s basketball coach JR Payne, who walked with several members of staff. “I think it’s so important that we spend a lot of time listening. I’ve spent hours lately on Zoom conversations, but said very little. Hearing people’s experiences and learning others’ experiences. And the truth is heartbreaking “It is absolutely heartbreaking. I am very proud of our athletes for asking for it. I am proud that our department is doing everything it can to do it. I just hope it leads to more conversations.”
Miller said the past few weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster as he has seen peaceful protests, violent protests, police attackers and looting. Ultimately, Miller, who is a young black man from Texas like Nixon, hopes that all protests across the country will lead to change.
“It takes more than just this one action,” he said. “Someday in the future, if I have kids and great-great-great-grandchildren, they’ll never have to do it again. I thought back because Martin Luther King (in the 1960s) and everything marched so we wouldn’t be here need to be more, but we’re here. So we’re trying to make this the last time we need to be here in situations like this. We’re all one race – the human race. We’re together and we’re united. ”
Nixon has tried to spread a positive message of unity, saying that he is “happy for the world” as he watches so many people come together to fight racial injustice.
“All lives are important, black lives are important,” he said. “It goes together. You have seen my fellow brothers and sisters who support white. We are a family and it is crazy that the whole Boulder family was here. It is a blessing.
“Even officers kneel. I just shook the cop’s hand today. They see that it can be peaceful. That’s the best way to do it: be calm. I just see what we can be. I don’t look at the moment because I know we can do better. … When I think positive, I bring positive, so why not a change? And that is what we have just done. ”