Following the emergence of civil unrest and a global pandemic that exacerbated community injustice, Tara DeLaFuente, AKA Ash Marie on Instagram, launched Cats not Cops. A nonprofit organization dedicated to providing mutual help and assistance to the most vulnerable citizens of Denver.

As anger and resentment against systemic injustice spread across the country last summer, defusing the police became a controversial mainstream issue. For DeLaFuente, this meant getting creative out of solidarity with her daughter, who attracted a quirky cat that caught the protesters’ attention. (Apart from the logo, cats are not involved in the organization). What started as a fun mother-daughter project has become the slogan of a movement that hopes to shift resources directly into the community rather than monitor and punish them.

Tara DeLaFuente and her daughter. Photography by Aurora Adams.

DeLaFuente hopes that Cats not Cops will not be perceived as a divisive or stigmatized threat, but on the contrary. “People need more love, care and resources than any other policeman, handcuff and criminal record,” she said.

After a seemingly impossible task of getting heads of state to pay attention, DeLaFuente is committed to gathering passionate volunteers to help our homeless neighbors. “They [politicians] could definitely do more, ”commented DeLaFuente.

Photography by Aurora Adams

DeLaFuente has been involved in the Denver community for years. She is passionate about social justice, resource allocation, and finding ways to help our community thrive.

For Cats not Cops, building a dedicated community network has changed the landscape of what mass community organizing in Denver and beyond could look like. Everything from hot food to haircuts, massages to amusement rides, passionate and committed citizens help tackle resource inequality.

Photography by Aurora Adams

“We’re building a network of people from different backgrounds who want to support the community and who need help,” she said “We encourage people to give back in different ways. One of the greatest ways is to make sure people have food, transportation, technology, or help them connect with their families. “

A current Ph.D. DeLaFuente’s studies focus on building a deeper sense of community at the University of Colorado in Denver. “The basic problem is socio-economic problems that we are fighting. The prosperity gap has only grown. People need resources. “ DeLaFuente hopes that Cats not Cops will attract more volunteers who want to get involved in helping one another.

The organization regularly hosts nightly stations around the Denver Metroon. Including hot home cooked food and drinks, company and community support opportunities. Popular serving options include pizza, chilli, hot dogs, mashed potatoes, and a hot chocolate and coffee station. Other major necessities the stations provide are charcoal, clothing items if available, toiletries and hygiene products, candles, and more. Additional charitable services and donations are always welcome.

To learn more about cats instead of cops, donations, and volunteer opportunities, visit the website here.

All photos are from Aurora Adams