A mention of possible civil war at a June 21 Mesa County Commissioners’ meeting rattled several Grand Junction residents, prompting letters-to-the-editor in response to a Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article.
The reference to the possibility of future violence compelled one local resident to notify the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
“When you see something, you need to say something,” said Anne Landman, a local resident and progressive blogger, who contacted the CBI via Facebook. “You can’t ignore warning shots. I think it’s dangerous. There are a lot of aggrieved and armed people.”
Wendi Wood said her comment that “it’s going to come to civil war” if people continue to feel unheard was taken out of context. She said she’s trying to “intercede” to prevent that from happening.
During her testimony at the June 21 commissioner’s meeting, she also stated that a “if these cries are constantly ignored that is where this country is headed.”
For the past two weeks, a group of local residents have attended the commissioners’ public hearings to ask Republican Commissioners Scott McInnis, Janet Rowland, and Cody Davis to pass a resolution declaring Mesa County a constitutional sanctuary. Many speakers claimed their constitutional rights were being infringed upon by the government.
Brandon Leuallen, a 34-year-old Clifton man, who organized the group downplayed the reference to civil war.
“A lot of people are upset,” he said. “They don’t feel their voices are heard. Someone could lash out. We’re doing something peaceful so something bad doesn’t happen; before something does happen.”
Wood and Leuallen, who have both recovered after contracting the COVID-19 virus, said the group’s call for constitutional sanctuary is “pre-emptive” in case restrictions are put in place again.
The highly transmissible Delta variant has taken hold in Mesa County where Grand Junction’s two hospitals have been near capacity and diverting patients off and on for the last few weeks.
Many in the group objected to the county’s stance on trying to boost its vaccination rate. At 40%, Mesa County’s vaccine rate is among the lowest of Colorado counties of similar size.
Petitioners complained about vaccines and masks being pushed on community members. Some people said the government is withholding cures or treatments for COVID.
“We’re asking for our rights to be taken back to pre-2020,” Wood said in a later phone interview. “I am concerned. We are not a collectivist culture. We should let adults choose. We’re Americans. We have that freedom to choose. If a woman can choose for her body it should be across the board.”
There are currently no COVID-related restrictions regarding public health in Mesa County. The Mesa County Board of Commissioners lifted previous mask mandates and business restrictions when it passed a resolution in March that stated individuals and businesses are free to choose how to protect themselves from COVID-19. https://health.mesacounty.us/saferathome/
Still, members of the group say they plan to continue petitioning the commissioners to adopt a constitutional sanctuary county resolution.
Many questioned the legality of requiring masks or instilling restrictions on public places.
Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) responded with a statement saying it does have authority to close or limit access to public places, limit gatherings of people, or seek isolation or quarantine of individuals.
The MCPH statement reads in part, “Title 25 of the Colorado Revised Statute gives public health the authority to take measures to protect public health and to investigate and control the causes of epidemic and communicable diseases affecting public health.”
For the past several weeks Grand Junction’s two hospitals have been operating near or at capacity, and diverting patients off and on. Mesa County was the first Colorado county to identify the presence of the highly contagious and more dangerous Delta variant.
In advance of Monday’s meeting, the commissioners issued a draft statement in response to the group’s request. It stated commissioners did not support the establishment of Mesa County as a constitutional sanctuary county.
During a phone interview, McInnis said “there’s no such thing as a constitutional county.”
“There’s no legal basis,” said McInnis. “Elko, Nevada did this so [some people believe] we should. Elko may have done it but it doesn’t mean anything. It has no legal teeth. We can’t tell the government or feds what to do. It’s a misconception of our authority.”
McInnis added, “We do not mandate vaccines; you have the right to choose. I would think they would be feeling supportive of Right to Choose.”
McInnis also said he did not feel threatened by the group.
“They’re adamant about what they’re asking for but it was not a threatening atmosphere,” he said.