Proposition 112 Opponents Rally at State Capitol as Proponents Cancel Event After Threats

Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley addresses hundreds of people who showed up at the State Capitol Tuesday to rally against Proposition 112.EXPAND
Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley addresses hundreds of people who showed up at the State Capitol Tuesday to rally against Proposition 112.
Paige Yowell
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As Proposition 112 opponents rallied at the Colorado State Capitol Tuesday, October 16, proponents of the measure were canceling a Friday rally in Greeley due to threats of violence.

And right across the street from the anti-112 rally, the Colorado Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments in the so-called Martinez appeal, in which six teenagers, including Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, sued the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on the grounds that the state agency is legally bound to consider public health and safety first and foremost when permitting oil and gas developments. The attorney general appealed a decision that ruled in favor of Martinez.

Proposition 112 would impose 2,500-foot setbacks for new oil and gas development near schools, water sources and homes. The ballot measure's supporters say the timing of the rally isn't a coincidence.

"There are lots of supporters and activists that came to the trial and found Proposition 112 oil and gas company opposition here. We were shocked," said Brian Loma, founder of Cut the Plastic, who was on his way to the court hearing and stopped to record the anti-112 rally, where hundreds of people and a coalition of Democrat and Republican mayors gathered to spout off about why the measure will hurt the state's economy. Two women on their way to the hearing also stopped to interrupt, shouting "You lie!" at the speakers. They were escorted off of the state capitol grounds.

Loma also pointed out that the rally was held in the middle of the workday. "Having it on a weekday, they're able to pay staff to be here," he said.

The rally was organized by Mayors Against Proposition 112 and led by Johnstown Mayor Scott James. James said at the rally that he's organized fifty mayors, including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, from all parts of Colorado to oppose the measure because it would hurt the state's economy.

"I'm an advocate because I see people coming at our way of life and it ticks me off," James said of his opposition to Proposition 112 at the rally.

Several other mayors, including Greeley Mayor John Gates and former Denver mayor Wellington Webb, also spoke out against the measure.

Opponents claim the measure would kill thousands of jobs and have a ripple effect throughout Colorado's economy. The industry has funneled millions of dollars to somewhat ambiguous political groups to help fight the measure.

"This is BS. These people need to take this and shove it!" Milliken Mayor Beau Woodcock said of the measure at Tuesday's rally. 

The ballot measure's proponents, meanwhile, canceled a Friday event in Greeley after receiving several threats over the past few months, says Anne Lee Foster, a spokeswoman for Colorado Rising, which is backing Proposition 112. This wouldn't be the first time proponents were harassed or intimidated over their support of the measure. Petition-gatherers reported more than eighty incidents of being stalked, harassed, followed, shouted at and surrounded by protesters who sometimes admitted they were paid to stop voters from signing, Foster says.

Foster says Greeley City Councilwoman Stacy Suniga, who was the only councilmember voting to support Proposition 112, received a phone call earlier this month at her home in which the anonymous caller said Suniga's "days were numbered" and that she "should watch her back." Another volunteer and Greeley resident received an anonymous letter at his home, calling him a "dip shit" "looney" and "crazy." Both incidents were reported to police, Foster says. Another supporter of the measure has faced harassment on social media via messages and comments that have only gotten worse since Proposition 112 qualified for the ballot.

Foster says all of the incidents combined led Colorado Rising to cancel the Friday rally. Their volunteers will instead be focused on canvassing through the election. 

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