Following the rise of civil unrest and a global pandemic that has exacerbated community injustice, Tara DeLaFuente, AKA Ash Marie on Instagram, launched Cats not Cops, a community service organization that provides mutual aid and support for Denver’s most vulnerable citizens.
As the anger and resentment towards systemic injustice unfolded across the nation last summer, defunding the police became a mainstream, although, controversial topic. For DeLaFuente, it meant getting creative with her daughter in solidarity, who drew a whimsical cat that attracted protestors’ attention. (Other than the logo, cats are not involved in the organization). What started as a fun mother-daughter project, turned into the slogan of a movement that hopes to shift resources directly into the community, rather than towards policing and punishment.
DeLaFuente hopes that Cats not Cops isn’t perceived as a divisive or stigmatized threat, but rather the opposite. “People need more love, care and resources rather than another cop, another handcuff and another criminal record,” she explained.
After what seemed like an impossible task of getting state leaders to pay attention, DeLaFuente took it upon herself to gather passionate volunteers who help serve our houseless neighbors. “They [politicians] could definitely be doing more,” commented DeLaFuente, “We got on social media and we started sharing a little bit about what I’m doing, and community members, protestors and various community activists have come out to help.”
DeLaFuente has been involved with the Denver community for years. She is a passionate advocate of social justice, resource distribution and finding ways to help our community thrive.
For Cats not Cops, building an engaged community network has shifted the landscape of what mass community organizing could look like in Denver and beyond. Everything from hot food to haircuts, massages to giving rides, passionate and engaged citizens help combat resource inequity.
“We are building a network of people with all different backgrounds who want to support the community and those who need help,” she stated “We encourage people to give back in different ways. Some of the biggest ways is making sure people have food, transportation, technology or help to get them in touch with their families.”
A current Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado in Denver, building a deeper sense of community is the main focus of DeLaFuente’s studies. “The root problem is socioeconomic issues, that’s what we are fighting. The wealth gap has only grown. People need resources.” DeLaFuente hopes that Cats not Cops will attract more volunteers looking to get involved with mutual aid.
The organization hosts frequent nightly stations around the Denver metro area. Including hot comfort food and drinks, company and opportunities for community support. Popular serving choices include pizza, chile, hot dogs, mashed potatoes along with a hot chocolate and coffee station. Other important necessities the stations provide are charcoal, clothing items if available, toiletries and hygienic products, candles and more. Additional community services and donations are always welcome.
To find out more about Cats not Cops, donation and volunteer opportunities, visit the website here.
All photography provided by Aurora Adams