Monday evening’s meeting of Keep Colorado Free & Open, a group opposing public-health restrictions, was a tough room for any elected official, but especially a law enforcement officer, even one as conservative as Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams.
Faced with questions about the natural rights of “sovereign beings” to ignore laws, Reams refused to tell them they could take the law into their own hands. Then he called a Colorado state representative “a terrorist.”
A woman declaring herself and her allies as “sovereign beings” told Reams they didn’t have time to wait until the next election to change leadership, and implored Reams to “take us outside the law.”
“I can’t encourage you to openly revolt against the government,” Reams told the crowd. “But, truly, that’s what you’re asking me to say, is openly revolt against the government. I can’t do that.”
The event offered an audience with the Weld Sheriff and a screening of a pandemic conspiracy movie called Nonessential, the trailer for which features Hitler, President Biden, George Soros, Bill Gates, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, concluding with a call to “Stand Up Against Tyranny!”
The fifty or so people who gathered in Greeley Monday night to see the movie and hear Reams speak and watch were angry, frustrated, and looking to their sheriff for sympathetic responses to their desire for taking unrealistic–and often illegal–action.
Reams didn’t give them what they were looking for. Instead, he did encourage the crowd to focus on grassroots organizing and civic engagement, saying they should channel their obvious passion into public testimony, lawful protests, and campaigns for office.
It was at the end of one of these perfectly reasonable responses, in this case to a man who was insisting the Supreme Court’s Marbury v. Madison ruling gives all Americans the right to ignore laws they don’t like, that Reams called state Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) a “terrorist.”
“You need to be willing to go to those different [governing] bodies and ask the question and put them on record. And to your point, how do we turn it?” Reams asked rhetorically. “Hey, put them on record!
“I guarantee you, Leslie Herod down at the state Capitol has made a name for herself. In my mind, she’s a terrorist. She’s a terrorist against the citizens of Colorado. Her record speaks volumes.
“If there’s anybody that you should have a reason to get out of office, it’s Leslie Herod because she is absolutely running bills to strip law enforcement from your daily lives to prevent law enforcement from protecting you. And she’s turning the state upside-down. She’s on record. How many others can we get on record and then who do we run against them? That’s the ultimate question.”
Reams referenced Herod’s legislative record and talked of getting her out of office via offering a competitive candidate in the next election.
Herod, the first LGBT African-American member of the Colorado General Assembly, was the prime sponsor of the law enforcement accountability and reform bill that passed with near-unanimous bipartisan support during last summer’s special session in the wake of the George Floyd BLM protests. She also sponsored last year’s Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity bill, which required all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras. Her only bill this session related to criminal justice is a requirement for gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within five days.
Reached for comment, Rep. Herod sent the following statement:
“I love this state and this country deeply, which is why I work hard every day to make them better for everyone, As a Black woman, I’m no stranger to being attacked and called names for speaking my truth and working on behalf of my community. But having an elected leader in law enforcement call me a terrorist for working to make communities safer is a brazen and dangerous new low. Sheriff Reams swore to serve and protect Coloradans — he should be ashamed of himself for doing the opposite. I won’t let this reckless attack intimidate me into silence.”
Reams may have been speaking metaphorically, but he was addressing people who repeatedly said they wanted to take the law into their own hands. One said they could reject regulations based on a legal memos written by an unnamed lawyer in Florida. Another mentioned anti-government speaker and attorney Kris Ann Hall, who peddles a conspiracy theory that most of the federal government is unconstitutional and therefore its laws can be ignored.
Early in the evening, an audience member asked Reams for his position on citizen’s arrest and citizen grand juries, which are wholly unofficial entities favored by conspiracy theorists, anti-government extremists, and white supremacists. Reams rightly replied that he didn’t believe “citizen grand juries” had any lawful authority.
Full video of the meeting, (not including the movie screening) is available on the Keep Colorado Open & Free Facebook page.
Reached for comment, group founder Julie Formby reiterated her group’s belief that natural rights granted by God cannot be taken away by the government. Formby and two other women founded the group in April of last year in response to Colorado’s coronavirus lockdown, with the expectation that upon the state reopening in the summer, the group would advocate that the state remain fully open from then on. When that did not happen, they started holding events to organize people around the concept of natural rights and civil disobedience. She says the group does not advocate violence.
When asked about the fact that in America the judicial branch is responsible for determining whether laws are constitutional, Formby rejected that premise.
“No! The judiciary will let laws be made that are unconstitutional. At that point citizens do have to decide,” asserted Formby. “[Reams] talked a lot about the Second Amendment. If the judiciary says, ‘Yeah we can come take your guns, we can take your ammunition,’ I don’t care if the Supreme Court says they can do that! It’s unlawful. It’s unconstitutional. People would say no and resist it. I don’t know how far it would go…. As a group we haven’t taken a position on that–there’s a lot of freedom for people to work out what civil disobedience looks like.
“Again we don’t advocate violence. There is a time when it will come to that.
“It took a good 15 years before the Founding Fathers rose up against Britain and there was a lot that happened in the meantime before they took up arms. So we have a long ways to go before it would get to that point, in my opinion.”
Sheriff Reams did not respond to a voicemail and Facebook message requesting comment. This article will be updated with any response received.
CORRECTION 3/25/2021 — The phrases “sovereign citizens” and “sovereign citizens” were changed to “sovereign being” and “sovereign beings.”