A group of about 30 people gathered Saturday at Ridgway’s Hartwell Park for a “Freedom Rally,” many waving American flags and signs supporting President Donald Trump.
Attendees said they wanted to encourage “civil conversation” with people of different political beliefs. They passed out Trump campaign signs and handouts titled “so you still don’t like your president?” which encouraged people to “turn off the fake news and turn on the true America.”
“I don’t like the division that’s going on in America right now,” organizer Josh Tiffany said. “It’s not what we’re about. Regardless of your affiliation, beliefs, opinions, I want to see everyone come together.”
“It doesn’t matter what’s on your hat or your shirt,” said Tiffany, who wore a Make America Great Again hat and a T-shirt picturing Barack Obama wearing a Trump hat. “What matters is getting together and talking.”
Scott Carlisle led the group in prayer at the start of the event. “We hope and pray that you’ll help us regain our country,” he said.
“We used to be able to talk about stuff We have been divided, for not helpful purposes,” said his wife, Anita Carlisle. “We the people can fix this amongst ourselves.” It’s important to “let the political stuff go,” she said.
Attendees set up signs in the park for Republican congressional candidate Lauren Boebert, Republican State Board of Education incumbent Joyce Rankin and Ouray County Commission candidates John Peters and Ned Bosworth, who are registered as unaffiliated. Neither local candidate attended the rally.
Few people appeared to take up Tiffany’s call for conversation during the more than two hours that he and others stood alongside Sherman Street.
“I was hoping to get to talk to people from both sides,” Loghill resident Eric Havelick said. “I’m really disappointed they didn’t turn out.”
A few cars drove by and yelled or held up their middle fingers, and one man shouted, “I hope you get COVID and die,” from across the street. “Come over here and talk,” some of the participants yelled back, while others responded, “Thank you, God loves you” and “Put your muzzle back on,” referring to the man’s mask. Havelick said he saw one person throw a sandwich at the group while driving by.
Dozens of others honked in support as they drove by, and interactions with passersby were more supportive than negative.
Some participants said during the event they want to stop Marxist or socialist ideas in the United States, and others pointed to protecting gun rights as a key concern. Others criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, and referenced protests that happened in large cities this summer.
“It’s not about one life matters, it’s about everyone. And I don’t understand why that is a fight, like if you say everyone matters why that’s so wrong to say,” Tiffany said. “I don’t think anyone ever says Black lives don’t matter. And that’s just one of the many things dividing us now.”
Rallies in support of Black Lives Matter were held in both Ouray and Ridgway in June, organized by local high school and college students. About 300 people participated in the Ridgway march.
“I am out here because I want my country to be the country I grew up in,” said Ray Brunacini, who is frequently seen displaying political signs at Hartwell Park and has signs criticizing masks on his truck. “I don’t want the Marxists taking over,” he said, specifically referencing the Black Lives Matter organization.
He carried an American flag and a Trump flag up and down the sidewalk several times throughout the rally. At one point, he began arguing with one of two rally attendees who wore a mask, which he called “a Marxist prop.”
Brunacini proclaimed wearing masks showed a lack of intelligence, and when encouraged not to judge others for wearing them, said, “I’ll judge these motherf***ers every day. They took everything from me. I don’t f***ing care about them.” Later during the rally, he played the song “Why Can’t We Be Friends” loudly from his truck.
Angela Tripp, who moved from Tennessee to Ridgway two years ago, said she initially “felt very lonely” as a Trump supporter in the area until recently, when a group in opposition to mask mandates formed and began gathering. “We’re here to show everybody that they don’t have to be silent,” she said.
Similar “freedom rallies” have been held elsewhere in the country by conservative groups in recent weeks, including one in Grand Junction on Labor Day featuring Boebert.
Liz Teitz is a journalist with Report for America, a nonprofit program focused on supporting journalism in underserved areas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a tax-deductible donation to support her work.