“This is farming while Black in America,” Nicole Mallery says while police arrest her husband (Instagram).
For the last two years, the Black ranching couple in Colorado has faced an onslaught of racial harassment from locals and law enforcement, escalating to their recent arrest on Monday. Courtney and Nicole Mallery were arrested for alleged felony stalking on their neighbor’s farm, whom the couple has unsuccessfully filed eight restraining orders against and who they say is part of a group of white residents attempting to intimidate the Mallerys’ off their land (Colorado Public Radio, CBS News).
“We are stalked, we are harassed, we are chased, we are followed, there’s been spray paint where they put “n*****” on items on our home,” Nicole Mallery said. The pair say that since they purchased the ranch, they have been “terrorized” and “threatened” by locals with the help of law enforcement.
The two have since been released from jail after posting bond.
• Sign the petition calling for the investigation and termination of law enforcement using abuse of power against the Mallerys.
• Demand Colorado Gov. Jared Polis hold law enforcement accountable. Call 303-866-2471 and/or email Governorpolis@state.co.us.
• Attend the protest at the Denver Capital in Colorado on 2/17 at 9 a.m. in support of the Mallerys and the passing of the CAREN ACT.
• Donate funds to CashApp $Blackfarmland to help with the legal fees, safety systems, and repairs to the farm.
The Mallerys purchased the 1,000-acre ranch, which they would name Freedom Acres Ranch, in El Paso County, Colorado, in 2020 after being displaced by flooding during Hurricane Harvey (Ark Republic). The decision to leave Texas and restart in Colorado was influenced by Courtney wanting to return to his familial roots of farming, and the state offered an affordable but picturesque opportunity. However, rebuilding their lives in the predominantly white area was met with discriminatory pushback early on. The owners of the initial property they wanted accepted – then rescinded– their offer after allegedly finding out the couple was Black.
The price for their fresh start has cost them more than $200,000. Since the purchase of Freedom Acres Ranch, the couple says their white neighbors and law enforcement have utilized intimidation tactics to push the couple off their land. Mutilation of their livestock, theft, and vandalism of their property and equipment, the county sheriff patrolling their property, and strangers stopping on their land and taking pictures of them—some even brandishing a gun—have caused the couple to feel unsafe. In May 2021, their ranch hand Donaciano Amaya was found dead in their chicken coop, which is still being investigated as a homicide (KRDO).
They have made 170 calls to the sheriff’s office, including complaints against members of the police department, which has not amounted to any relief (KDVR).
Nicole Mallery told reporters that “It is in fact El Paso County Sheriff’s Office that is the main reason that we do not feel safe on our property.”
They specifically point to El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Emory ‘Ray’ Gerhart for abusing his power, including allegedly telling the couple he would arrest them if they kept calling the police and surveilling their ranch (Daily Mail). Gerhart is married to Judge Shannon Gerhart, who sits on the 4th Judicial County Court in Colorado.
Violence, intimidation tactics, and discriminatory policies to push people of color out of the land they legally own are not new; they are embroiled in the history of the United States as a means to steal and disenfranchise marginalized people from land ownership. This is especially true when it comes to farming.
Before and more than a century after emancipation, Black people were able to toil the land but were barred from actually owning it.
While their freedom and the passage of the Southern Homestead Act, Civil Rights Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment opened the possibility of land ownership to thousands of newly freed Black people (NPS), they were insufficient in supporting aspiring Black homesteaders. Poverty, hostility and violence from white people, and the “unsuitability of the lands available and difficulty of finding them” were unaddressed barriers to access and ownership (JSTOR). As a result, newly freed Black people, mainly men, ended up sharecropping or in chain gangs (The ARD). Those that were successful were rarely able to retain ownership nor pass it down to future generations. Additionally, “white nationalist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan – some of whom were on city councils and law enforcement – forced many Black farmers off their land because, in some cases, the farmers’ growing wealth from their work offended the white townspeople’s sense of racial superiority. In other cases, the white people wanted the land itself” (The ARD).
From 1865 to 1965, there were more than 3,000 lynchings found by the Tuskegee Institute and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, many of whom were Black landowners. “If you are looking for stolen black land,” Ray Winbush, director of Fisk University’s Race Relations Institute, said, “just follow the lynching trail.”
The story of the Mallerys is a reminder that the fight for Black land ownership is not over. Whether it’s through on-the-ground protesting or cold-calling officials, we must defend the safety of Black farmers.
• Black ranchers in Colorado have been the target of racial harassment after purchasing land in a predominately white region.
• Despite escalating harassment and 170 calls to law enforcement for help for the past two years, officers arrested the ranchers.
• This country has a history of pushing people of color off of land and barring Black farmers from land ownership.