The harassment must end

Like most of the nation right now, Cortez is deeply divided over politics. The division isn’t new, since it was ap­parent even before COVID-19 came along. But the pandemic and the 2020 election definitely worsened the rift.

Over the past year, people on differ­ent sides of the aisle have been guilty of some bad behavior – flipping off demonstrators they disagree with, engag­ing in rudeness on social media, those sorts of things. Most have been isolated incidents. But there has also been a recurring pattern of individuals ganging up with the apparent intent of intimidat­ing others, and this needs to stop.

Such an incident took place the night of April 13, when the Cortez City Coun­cil had its regular meeting. Some citizens were angry that they weren’t allowed into council chambers because they refused to don masks. They were allowed to speak to the council from another room, but they weren’t satisfied. After the meeting concluded, a group report­edly converged on one councilor, Amy Huckins, as she got into her vehicle on the west side of City Hall, and blocked her with their own vehicles so that she couldn’t get away for a time.

We couldn’t reach Huckins for com­ment, but numerous other sources told us this happened.

Soon thereafter, Huckins submitted her resignation from the council. She did not say that the incident was the reason for her leaving. However, in her letter she wrote that she strives “to be well in­formed and to make informed decisions for the betterment of the city.” Then, she continued, “My intention is to find a place within our community that I can use these attributes and also feel safe. ”

This was not the first instance of a group trying to intimidate. Throughout most of 2020, when Black Lives Matter protesters walked the sidewalks along Cortez’s Main Street and Trump sup­porters known as Patriots drove up and down the street, there were frequent times when people offended by the BLM marchers confronted and harassed them. In a video taken on Sept. 26, several men can be seen shouting at the marchers from across the street. One yelled, “You love black people, huh? Are you black? Does your life matter? Does your life matter? No, it don’t, not to them, you asshole.”

There are a number of videos taken on other days in which the BLM/Justice and Peace marchers remain silent while being subjected to harassment. And on Oct. 24, two of us on the Free Press staff saw a man shove a young woman holding a BLM sign on the corner of Market and Main. She decided not to contact police.

Then, on Jan. 2, there was more ha­rassment of the peace and justice march­ers, so much so in fact that it resulted in charges against the so-called Patriots group. (The article is on Page 10.)

Citizens have the right to gather and to express their views, but they don’t have the right to harass others. Elected officials, as well as people protesting, certainly should expect criticism and complaints, but they shouldn’t be made to feel unsafe.

Bullying and badgering is very low-lev­el behavior. It doesn’t win people over to your side – at least not intelligent, think­ing people. Make your views known, but don’t be vicious in doing so.

From Editorials.