Extremist election deniers, GOP lawmakers rally outside Colorado Capitol
Mike Lindell addresses a crowd gathered on the steps of the state capitol for an event called the “Colorado Election Truth Rally,” which was organized by individuals who question the results of the 2020 presidential election, in Denver, April 5, 2022. (Kevin Mohatt/Colorado Newsline
DENVER —Local and national leaders of a right-wing movement that seeks to violently overturn the results of the 2020 election rallied outside the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday, rehashing an array of baseless conspiracy theories and telling a crowd of hundreds of supporters that they’re fighting a “spiritual battle” against evil.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a close ally of former President Donald Trump and one of the country’s most prominent election deniers, headlined Tuesday’s rally, which also featured speeches from four sitting Colorado lawmakers and Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters, who was indicted by a grand jury last month for her alleged role in allowing election conspiracy theorists to access secure voting equipment.
“You guys here in Colorado, you’re in a battle — you’re like the tip of the spear (against) evil of epic proportions,” Lindell told the crowd in a rambling 45-minute speech on the steps of the Capitol.
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“If we don’t get people like Tina Peters and other people that have courage, we could lose our country forever,” Lindell said. “The good news is, we’re not going to. God’s got a bigger plan than we had.”
Speaking to reporters prior to his speech, Lindell reportedly said he’d contributed “maybe $800,000 of my own money” to Peters’ legal defense fund, according to The Colorado Sun. That fund is the subject of an ethics complaint filed against Peters, on top of her other legal woes.
Lindell was also seen being served with a lawsuit just before taking the stage. A lawsuit filed in Denver District Court on Monday by Eric Coomer, a former Dominion Voting Systems employee and target of unfounded 2020 election conspiracy theories, names Lindell and two of his companies, MyPillow and FrankSpeech, as defendants.
After Trump was defeated by President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, Peters, a health and wellness coach elected to the Clerk and Recorder position in 2018, began promoting false claims that widespread fraud had determined the outcome. She and a former deputy, Belinda Knisley, are alleged to have allowed an unauthorized party to access secure elections equipment before and after a software update in May 2021. Weeks later, data and passwords from Mesa County elections systems were leaked by Ron Watkins, a leading figure in the QAnon conspiracy movement.
“For people that say we need to look forward — we’ve got to fix what happened in 2020,” Peters told supporters Tuesday.
To date, three reports published by Peters and her allies purporting to show evidence of fraud have been repeatedly debunked by elections officials and experts. Dozens of legal challenges against the results of the election have been thrown out by courts.
Polling has shown, however, that the overwhelming majority of Republican voters continue to believe false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Nineteen of 21 Republican members of the state House present for a January vote on amendment endorsing 2020 election conspiracy theories voted for the measure, while current state GOP chair Kristi Burton Brown campaigned for the post by pushing similar claims.
State Rep. Ron Hanks of Cañon City, a first-term lawmaker who admitted to crossing police lines outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 assault by pro-Trump rioters, warned attendees at Tuesday’s rally not to be deceived by Republican candidates “fighting (for election integrity) since last week.” Hanks is the only sitting lawmaker in the party’s crowded U.S. Senate primary field.
“From a national security, national sovereignty perspective, we’re on a knife’s edge — a razor’s edge of opportunity to get this straight,” he said.
Also speaking at the rally were GOP state Reps. Richard Holtorf of Akron, Mark Baisley of Littleton and Dave Williams of Colorado Springs. Williams is mounting a primary challenge against incumbent Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 5th Congressional District. The state GOP will hold its assembly on April 9, ahead of a primary election in June.
“The Republican Party is showing us who they really are. In the week leading up to their state assembly, two of America’s top election deniers are coming to Colorado to stump for Big Lie candidates,” Morgan Carroll, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, said in a statement on Lindell’s event. “It’s no secret the GOP’s momentum lies with the far-right extremists.”
Threats of violence
Tuesday’s event was promoted by FEC United, the far-right group founded by Douglas County activist Joe Oltmann, who has used his “Conservative Daily” podcast to repeatedly call for mass hangings of his political opponents, including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
In the weeks following the 2020 election, Oltmann, who was present at Tuesday’s rally but didn’t take the stage, was instrumental in spreading a baseless conspiracy theory alleging that Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems was involved in perpetrating widespread election fraud.
On his show, Oltmann routinely blends commentary on the 2020 election and current events with elements and imagery from the QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories, claiming that the government is run by a Satanic cabal of pedophiles and envisioning a day of reckoning on which Trump supporters will be “able to build gallows all the way from Washington, D.C., to California.”
Lindell himself was famously pictured outside the White House holding a document referring to “martial law” shortly before Trump left office, and he predicted repeatedly throughout 2021 that Trump would soon be “reinstated” as president by the Supreme Court.
Peters, meanwhile, has routinely appeared alongside far-right activists who endorse or raise the possibility of political violence. During a Nov. 2021 livestream with supporters, Peters said of Cory Anderson, a Mesa County man associated with the Three Percenters militia movement, “Cory needs to be sheriff.”
Tuesday’s rally was patrolled by members of the United American Defense Force, a militia group with ties to FEC United. John Tiegen, the UADF’s founder and a former Trump campaign surrogate, told a reporter that his organization was “making sure it stays peaceful.”
“(This) is nothing for our legislators to fear, so long as they’re doing their jobs and upholding our constitutional rights,” Sherronna Bishop, an activist and former campaign manager for Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt, told the crowd. “There’s nothing to fear, as long as they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
While Lindell spoke to reporters prior to his speech, he was briefly heckled by a man, who declined to give his name, chanting “F— him and his pillows and his lies.” A group of Lindell supporters surrounded the man, and one man wearing a “F— Antifa” shirt and a Trump 2020 hat tried to physically confront the protester but was held back.
The unidentified man said loudly, trying to get others to join him in a physical confrontation, “We’re Americans, we kill communists. I want a scalp. There’s a war and we’re losing because we’re not fighting.”
Lindell repeatedly invoked religious imagery and praised the crowd for waging what he said was a “spiritual battle of epic proportions.” He and other speakers denounced the General Assembly’s recent passage of a bill to protect abortion rights, falsely claiming that the bill would allow “infanticide” within 30 days of birth.
“Every day, people are pouring in to a common sense reality, and they’re looking for hope, and they’re finally out there praying — and we will be, once again, one nation under God, we will have God back in our schools,” Lindell said.
He ended his lengthy speech by promoting MyPillow, the Minnesota-based company he founded in 2009.
“I’ll say it,” he told the crowd to cheers. “Use promo code ‘Dominion’ today to receive 66% off.”
Newsline’s Quentin Young contributed to this report.
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This article was first published by Colorado Newsline, part of the States Newsroom network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: [email protected] Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
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