GRAND JUNCTION — A scrum of pushing and shoving demonstrators led to an injury Monday morning as embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and Sherronna Bishop, one of her top supporters, took to the steps of the Mesa County courthouse to criticize those who are refusing to back their claims of election fraud.
In a rambling speech read from notes and timed to the Mesa County Commissioners’ regular Monday meeting inside the old courthouse, Peters claimed that her concerns about election fraud have been ignored by the commissioners and “vindicated” by a report issued weeks ago by a team working with national election-conspiracy promoter My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.
This was Peters’ second public appearance since she returned to Grand Junction after hiding out for a month in an undisclosed location with the help of Lindell. Her appearance came days before a judge’s ruling is expected to determine if Peters can serve as the county’s designated election official.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold sued in Mesa County District Court to hand that duty over to former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican.
The lawsuit came after Griswold appointed Mesa County Treasurer Sheila Reiner, a Republican, to oversee the 2021 election in the county.
Peters was stripped of her election duties after Peters allegedly compromised election security by giving an unauthorized person access to voting equipment in May and allowing that person to make copies of election hard drives. Photos of that information turned up on a far-right website known to spread conspiracy theories.
Peters and her office are being criminally investigated for that breach by multiple state and federal agencies.
Peters baselessly claimed during the event that she has successfully exposed election fraud, drawing cheers from about 75 supporters who waved signs ranging from “Tina Peters is a Hero,” to “Tina Peters: Duley (sic) Elected Clerk of Mesa County.” Each time they were mentioned, the crowd booed the three Republican commissioners who were meeting in a second-floor hearing room above the rally.
Peters’ news conference momentarily spun out of control when a protester with a “Protect Mesa County from crazy” sign, heckled Bishop. “You are not even from Mesa County!” shouted Matt Crowe, a teacher at Palisade High School. “You are an agitator.”
Bishop, who was one of Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign managers during her 2020 run for congress, lives in neighboring Garfield County.
Angry Peters supporters surrounded Crowe. They shouted and held their signs in front of him. In the melee, a woman who has been a regular at Peters’ rallies and had crowded in close to Crowe, fell to the pavement and hit her head. The mob began yelling that she had been assaulted by Crowe.
The woman was identified as Roxanne Lewis and as a member of the right-wing Stand for the Constitution organization. When she was asked later what happened, she told a reporter that someone had stepped on her foot before she fell.
Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies who had been inside the courthouse for the commissioners’ meeting came out and settled the crowd as an ambulance wheeled the woman off on a gurney and assessed her for a possible concussion.
Peters and Bishop continued their speeches while members of the crowd, riled up by the physical altercation, hollered about “baby killers,” and jeered Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reporter Charles Ashby, who has been reporting regularly on the Peters’ controversy.
Peters and Bishop talked for more than 45 minutes, veering between criticism of the Mesa County commissioners and promotion of a slate of Mesa Valley District 51 School Board candidates backed by Stand for the Constitution, the same group that is organizing anti-vaccine and pro-Peters demonstrations around Grand Junction.
“Why are they coming down on me?” Peters asked several times, referring to the commissioners, the 21st Judicial District Attorney, the FBI, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Griswold’s office — the agencies that are investigating or initiating investigations of her actions.
“Because you are exposing their lies!” a supporter yelled back.
Peters did not release any new information about election fraud.
When asked following the news conference what the purpose of the gathering was, Peters said, “for a press release.”
She added it was a chance to counteract what the Republican commissioners have been saying about her election fraud claims. “They have been saying so many lies — so many untrue things.”
When asked the same question, Bishop said, “Quite frankly, this is the only way to get our information out.”
Bishop said a second report about problems with voting equipment in Mesa County will be released in the coming weeks by Lindell’s cybersecurity team.
“There is so much data still to come,” said Karen Read, another member of Stand for the Constitution.
She said the second report is taking so much time because Lindell’s team is “cross-checking and checking again” to make sure everything is correct.
Peters and Bishop did not issue a news release at the news conference. Instead, they handed out a thick packet of copies of emails between Peters, Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland and officials from Clear Ballot Group. In those emails, Peters had been pushing to replace Dominion Voting Systems equipment with Clear Ballot machines.
Mesa County in August was ordered to scrap its voting system and buy a new one because of the security breach.
Last week, Peters, without explanation, did issue a news release stating that she believed Mesa County’s voting system is secure. That came after Williams, who has been hired by the commissioners to oversee the upcoming election, reported that multiple checks of the Dominion voting system have shown it to be secure. Those checks were observed by a citizens’ group.
The Mesa County commissioners were in meetings Monday morning and could not immediately be reached for comment.
But later in the day, Rowland said the situation in her county “is all getting out of control.”
She said she has been pressured to ask Peters to resign, “but she doesn’t care what I say. I asked her to pay the county back for her plane ticket (to the Lindell cyber security symposium in August) and she ignored me. She does not listen to me.”
CORRECTION: This story was updated Oct. 11, 2021, at 7:21 p.m. to correct the judicial district investigating claims against Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters. It is the 21st Judicial District, based in Grand Junction.