For the second week in a row, conservative activists are organizing a protest against public-health orders that have closed Colorado businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unlike the multiple protests at the state Capitol, these activists, some of whom may be openly armed, are targeting the offices of the Tri-County Health Department (TCH), the agency responsible for protecting residents of Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties.
Multiple groups are loosely coordinating the effort, including Reopen Colorado, Colorado Freedom Force, Colorado Liberty Rebellion, and “End the Colorado Lockdown.” As of Thursday evening approximately 100 people had marked themselves as attending the event, which takes place at noon on Friday ouside TCH’s office in Greenwood Village.
Organizers, who are demanding that TCH rescind its order, are hoping to see more than the few dozen people who showed up last Friday, waving signs calling TCH staff “fascists” and announcing “I am not your subject- I will not comply.”
Another protester rejected the concept of the pandemic entirely, waving a sign that read “Scam-demic.”
Activist Anthony Garcia is using his Facebook page, “End The Colorado Lockdown,” to promote the event, as he has for previous anti-shutdown protests at the Capitol. He’s even running a very small (under $100) paid advertising campaign for the event.
Reached via Facebook for comment, Garcia described the effort as a true grassroots movement with multiple groups involved. He said he’s also a member of Reopen Colorado and that he coordinates with the Libertarian Party on events.
He noted that “Colorado Freedom Force is working by themselves, mostly to raise money for legal challenges. They’re more tightly organized, having been born out of the Recall Polis movement.”
Garcia said they decided to target Tri-County Health because of its decision to close C&C Coffee and Kitchen, the Castle Rock restaurant that opened on Mother’s Day for dine-in service in violation of the state public health order. The following day TCH ordered the business to close. Owners April & Jesse Arellano complied, but have retained attorney Randy Corporon for a potential lawsuit against the state.
Corporon, who attended the first TCH protest, has RSVP’d for this Friday event as well. He did not reply to an email request for comment.
Some people who have marked themselves as attendees or interested in attending have hinted at the possibility of violent resistance to public health restrictions.
Former Republican statehouse candidate Brian Vande Krol wrote that he plans on attending, possibly with a pitchfork he will purchase for the occasion. He noted that it was less scary than open carry of a firearm, but it would still “get the point across to the bureaucrats and electeds.” This statement is less forceful than VandeKrol’s call for armed protest two weeks ago, when he wrote that “Our rulers need to be pooping their pants in fear. Standing on a lawn waving signs ain’t going to do it. Waving weapons might.”
Mike Fredricey, founder of the Colorado Liberty Rebellion Facebook group, has called for Governor Jared Polis’ (D-CO) removal from office “by whatever means necessary.” He organized a protest against stay-at-home orders last month, but he canceled it at the last minute.
Another possible attendee is Leadville resident and GOP candidate for Lake County Commissioner Ezekiah Luhan, who has a history of making threats to elected officials and law enforcement both online and in person.
Last November, the Leadville Herald reported that he said State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) and state Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon)” should be eradicated” at a town hall meeting. His statements sufficiently concerned the Loveland Mayor that he told the police chief to alert the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
More recently Lujan, who posted that he planned to attend the “open-carry” group at the May Day anti-shutdown protest, stated, “I will not allow myself to be arrested for exercising my God-given right either. If I die, I die. It’s time to do patriot shit, people.”
Asked about the likelihood of openly armed protesters and the potential for violent conflict, Garcia said he expects that “there might be a few,” but said that “open carriers tend to be very peaceful people. I can’t remember the last time there was actually a violent incident at an open-carry protest. If there ever was.”
He acknowledged the recent arrest of open-carry advocate Brad Bunn for possessing pipe bombs, but described it as “by far the exception rather than the rule.”
Tri-County Health did not immediately a voicemail requesting comment. This post will be updated with any response.