GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. -- Dozens of protesters gathered at Tri-County Health's headquarters Friday afternoon demanding an end to the department's remaining coronavirus-related restrictions.
"We're just a necessary response to these government mandates, these bureaucratic edicts that are closing small businesses, and we want to get Colorado back up and running," said Mike Fredricey with Colorado Liberty Rebellion, a liberty social media group. "We want to give small businesses a fighting chance to survive. That's all they're asking for."
Victoria Reynolds, Chair of the Colorado Libertarian Party, and one of the organizers of the protest, told Denver7 that health officials are "picking and choosing what stays open and what does not."
"For them to seize our businesses — because that is in fact what they are doing — for them to seize our businesses, without due process is unconstitutional," Reynolds said. "They need to stop infringing on our rights and allow us to get back to work."
One protester carried a sign that read, "Every business is essential to someone," on one side, and, "I am responsible for my own safety," on the other.
Another had a sign that read, "We will not allow Tri-County to mandate us into poverty!!"
Among the protesters were Larry and Bonnie Gieling.
"I never protest," Bonnie Gieling said, "but I felt I needed to take a stand and say, 'It's time that we law-abiding citizens speak up and say, enough is enough, from our government.'"
The couple said they support the owner of the Castle Rock restaurant that opened to big crowds on Mother's Day, in violation of the Tri-County Health Department's public health order.
"I think it's time we just open up and let the people decide," Larry Gieling said. "If you don't want to go someplace, don't go. If you want to go, go."
Across the street from Tri-County's headquarters, a lone counter-protester stood with his young son, holding a sign that read, "These protest(s) are a joke. Protect our nurses."
Tony Auciello said his wife is an ICU nurse at a local hospital and that she is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is a real crisis," he said. "Anyone who thinks otherwise has their head in the sand. It is sad that our political discourse has come to the point where a deadly national epidemic has been politicized."
Two protesters ran across the street to confront him, one banging on a pan.
They were joined by others wanting to dialogue.
Auciello told them to back up, to maintain social distance.
He bent down to try to place a face mask on his young son, as one of the protesters yelled, "let him breathe."
One protester told him the pandemic isn't anywhere near as serious as health officials make it out to be.
When he tried to talk statistics, Auciello simply said he trusts the doctors and scientists.
Tri-County Health response
The Tri-County Health Department has been the targeted by vandals and has received threats.
The department issued a statement saying: "Tri-County Health Department and our employees are focused on getting our community open as quickly and as safely as possible in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We realize there are no easy answers to what we are all going through and there are many opinions as to what should be done. We respect everyone’s right to practice their First Amendment rights and appreciate feedback from our community and applaud those who share their thoughts peacefully without violence or destruction. We continue to increase education and are increasing efforts in community testing and contact tracing to contain COVID-19. We also have a Business Reopening Task force to provide technical assistance and help guide our businesses to open quickly and safely."