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Politics and Government

Prayer, conspiracies and fundraising: Supporters of Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters hold another rally following FBI search

Tina Peters and Sherronna Bishop -- among others -- are under criminal investigation by federal, state and local authorities

People attend the Truth & Justice Rally at the old Mesa County Courthouse on December 1, 2021, in Grand Junction. Guest speakers included Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)
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GRAND JUNCTION — What was billed as an event to show support for election-fraud-promoting Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and her political cohort Sherronna Bishop, morphed into a combination religious revival and campaign rally – all organized by the Truth & Liberty Coalition, a Front Range group that promotes erasing the separation of church and state.

Around 250 people gathered in front of the old Mesa County courthouse Wednesday afternoon for an event that remained peaceful, unlike the last rally in support of Peters that included shouted disagreements and a scuffle that left one woman injured.

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Besides tearful speeches by Peters and Bishop about federal agents “terrorizing” them as they executed search warrants at their homes several weeks ago, four conservative political candidates from outside Mesa County were given mic time, each stressing that they weren’t there to give campaign speeches before they gave what amounted to campaign speeches.

“This is not a campaign speech,” state Rep. Ron Hanks, R-Fremont County, said before listing his qualifications for his U.S. Senate run against incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet.

“I call myself a Republican, but I call myself a conservative first,” Hanks said, echoing the dissatisfaction many speakers expressed with their own party.

The rally, at times, veered into esoteric conspiracy talk.

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters speaks during the Truth and Justice Rally at the old Mesa County Courthouse on December 1, 2021, in Grand Junction. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Richard Harris, the executive director of the Truth & Justice Coalition, pushed for a recall of Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and compared the Democrat to an airline that refuses to release information following a crash.

Debbie Perry-Smith, who came from Littleton to emcee the event, noted that jet contrails were making Xs in the sky above the rally. She also made repeated references to being “above the targets.”

The event was scripted with an “order of service” that listed times and duties for each speaker including detailed directions like “Ask a veteran in the crowd to lead us in the pledge” and “Mention all counties that are represented.”

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The bulk of speakers were affiliated with the Truth & Liberty Coalition.

The Truth & Liberty Coalition, based at a 493-acre campus and sanctuary near Woodland Park, was involved in recent school board elections, including in Mesa County, where conservative candidates won board seats. The coalition distributed guides for what school board candidates should talk about. The Coalition also funded some of the candidates.

The coalition, which operates the Charis Bible College in Woodland Park, in September held a political conference on its campus to fire up conservative candidates and elected officials. Some of those at the Mesa County rally Wednesday attended that seminar. The coalition has a partnership with WallBuilders, an organization based in Aledo, Texas, that promotes a pseudo history of the religious basis of the U.S. government and has called for biblical law in the U.S.

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That religious bent was front and center Wednesday in a rally laden with scripture recitations, along with references to the evils of “communist agendas” on the left and to the “Marxist regimes” of President Joe Biden and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

“I will not serve this Marxist regime. I will not take orders from Communists,” said Todd Watkins, a former assistant chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, who told the crowd he retired early to avoid working for communists. Watkins is currently running for sheriff in El Paso County.

The two-hour rally gave Peters and Bishop each 12 minutes to talk about how they believe they have been persecuted by authorities for trying to reveal the truth about the 2020 election. Both women are under federal, state and local criminal investigation for their alleged role in a breach of Mesa County’s election system. “I don’t know if any election I have ever voted in has been fair,” said a woman who identified herself as “a trained auditor” and had just driven over from Douglas County for the rally. She refused to give her name.

People attend the Truth & Justice Rally at the old Mesa County Courthouse on December 1, 2021, in Grand Junction. Guest speakers included Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

The crowd also included Gerald Wood of Fruita, who is under investigation for his alleged role in the Mesa County breach. Peters allegedly took Wood into a secure elections area by giving him employee security clearance even though he didn’t work for the county. She later said she used him for his computer expertise.

Wood’s name was not mentioned at the rally, but he did admit when asked by a reporter that he was “that guy.”

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He said his attorneys have advised him not to speak about the part he played in the breach of election equipment or the recent execution of a search warrant at his home – an event he said could be called “a raid.”

The rally included fundraising for Peters, who is running for reelection next year. A table was stacked with “Truth & Justice” T-shirts and stickers and patches that could be purchased for donations to Peters’ defense fund. T-shirt sales raised $1,000 and piles of bills were visible in donation boxes.

When asked how much money has been raised for her defense since she flew off to an election fraud symposium in South Dakota in May hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, went into hiding for more than a month, and later was removed from her election oversight duties, Peters said, “I don’t even know. I don’t know these things. It’s not part of my job.”

Republican gubernatorial hopefuls also appeared at the rally, including Greg Lopez and Danielle Neuschwanger. Neuschwanger set up a table and was selling “mental Terrorist” T-shirts.

Richard Harris, the executive director of the Truth & Liberty Coalition, sent the crowd home with four “action items.” He told them to call Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, the Republican headquarters in Denver and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to complain about the treatment of Peters and Bishop.

(Bishop served as the manager of Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s 2020 primary campaign.)

Sherronna Bishop speaks at the Truth & Justice Rally at the old Mesa County Courthouse on December 1, 2021, in Grand Junction. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

He also urged complaints about the failure of law enforcement to look into an 83-page report that he and other speakers said proves that information was deleted that could show election fraud. 

There has been no proof of widespread election fraud that would have changed the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Democratic and Republican election officials have said that Colorado’s 2020 election was secure and the results were valid.

‘Let’s light up those switchboards,” Harris said. “ Tell them to investigate and prosecute.”

In a rally that was liberally sprinkled with Bible references, the event ended with a hands-raised prayer and shouted “Thank you, Lords,” and “Amens” from the crowd. The group closed by holding hands on the courthouse steps and singing “God Bless America.”