DENVER — When Helen Rigmaiden hung a Black Lives Matter sign in the window of her retirement community apartment, she hoped it would lead to a conversation among her neighbors but never imagined it would result in a protest two years later and a car rally to follow.
On Christmas Eve, Rigmaiden received a letter from her South Denver retirement community, Windsor Gardens, informing her of a complaint made against her sign.
Windsor Gardens does not allow signs in the community, with very few exceptions. Rigmaiden was told she would have to remove her Black Lives Matter sign.
Although the retirement community said "letters were recently issued to residents asking them to remove various signs displayed in their unit," Rigmaiden looked around and saw various signs strewn through neighboring windows.
"It has to be all of us are taking this stuff down, or we're not. I just want to be treated fairly," Rigmaiden told 9NEWS.
She decided to leave her sign in her window as a form of protest.
Upon learning of the 71-year-old's fight, Denver School Board Director Tay Anderson organized a car rally with other community members.
"When one of our civil rights leaders is under attack, we have to stand up and be able to say that we want to be there to support our elders and also let them know that as they pass the baton to the younger generation, we are here to carry the torch to the finish line," Anderson said.
On Saturday, dozens of cars with Black Lives Matter painted on windows and flags met in Denver's Five Points neighborhood and formed a caravan to Windsor Gardens in support of Rigmaiden.
"This is to show the community has her back and there are people that care about this issue, that care and support black lives that are going to be there as we move forward in this fight for racial justice," Anderson told 9NEWS.
As a young woman protesting in Denver more than 50 years ago, Rigmaiden never imagined she would still be fighting for racial justice at 71 years old but called this moment "the birth of the new civil rights movement."
In a statement released to residents ahead of the rally Saturday, Windsor Gardens management said "the association will review our covenant enforcement process and policies to ensure that we are managing violations in a fair and uniform manner. During this time, [Rigmaiden] will be allowed to keep her sign."
As honking cars passed Rigmaiden and her neighbors, many grabbed Black Lives Matter signs of their own which could later be seen in windows throughout the building.
"You’re never too old. If you want to be relevant, you have to be teachable. That's so important. We have to remain teachable. We have to remain open," Rigmaiden told 9NEWS.
Here is Windsor Gardens' full statement, released Jan 1:
Windsor Gardens supports the wonderfully diverse cultures and beliefs that are present within our community of nearly 3,500 residents. We encourage community members and staff to strengthen connections by celebrating diversity and inclusivity while practicing kindness towards one another
.Letters were recently issued to residents asking them to remove various signs displayed in their unit windows pursuant to a Windsor Gardens Association Declaration provision, which states “no sign, poster, billboard, advertising device or display of any kind shall be erected or maintained anywhere on a Unit, the grounds or Common Elements, or the exterior of a building, except such sign or signs as may be approved in writing by the Board of Directors.” The association also has a policy regarding signs which allows for three exceptions to this Declaration provision as approved by the Board of Directors. The three exceptions are open house signs, political signs during elections, and “car for sale” signs inside of vehicles.
One of the signs that was not compliant with the association’s Declaration or the three exceptions found within the sign policy was a Black Lives Matter sign. After receiving a complaint about the sign, association staff followed the established enforcement practices and sent a letter to the resident. The association had no prior knowledge of the sign and the sole intention was to enforce the association’s covenants, not to silence a social justice message.
Based upon information the association has received regarding other non-conforming signs and flags in the community, the association will review our covenant enforcement process and policies to ensure that we are managing violations in a fair and uniform manner. During this time, the resident will be allowed to keep her sign.
The association is aware of the Black Lives Matter car parade that is scheduled to come through the public streets of Windsor Gardens on Saturday, January 2nd. Although the parade is not organized by the association, we are asking for the community to be respectful and peaceful during the event.
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