A car pulls up in the dark of the night. Out steps a masked man carefully avoiding cameras. He walks onto a private lawn and places a sign in the yard. He swiftly returns to his car and drives off to the next home of another City Council member, continuing to every City Council residence he can find. The signs read “Proud Gun Free Household” and while attributed to Moms Demand Action, a gun safety group associated with Everytown For Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action did not make or distribute the signs.
The morning of January 8th most Broomfield Council members found an unauthorized political sign had been placed on their properties. A review of home security camera footage spotted a darkly dressed man in a mask placing the signs, then returning to a car, but his identity currently remains unknown. Moms Demand Action did not authorize the printing or placement of these signs according to Carol Callicote of the local Colorado chapter.
“I was worried that they were taking pictures of the sign on our lawn saying we were unarmed,” Council Member Heidi Henkel shared, fearing this could be used as an intimidation tactic.
Members of the City Council expressed varying degrees of concern over the incident. “It scared children when those signs were placed, it just really put people on edge,” Mayor Guyleen Castriotta confirmed.
“It was bothersome after the fact because it said ‘paid for by Moms in Action’, and they did not pay for those signs. That’s what was bothersome to me,” explained Council Member Laurie Anderson.
Every single member of the Council, with the exception of Austin Ward whose apartment complex is difficult to access, was visited on the night of the 18th, just days before deliberation on gun safety rights. Not only were the signs inaccurate, at least once council member owns firearms, the signs were not paid for, approved by, or created by Moms Demand Action. Moms Demand Action stated to YS that they were unaware of the improper use of their organization’s name in creating these fake political signs.
Moreover, several council members were startled and shaken that someone had visited nearly every member in the night and stepped foot on their properties in order to distribute false political advertising. Council Members also expressed concerns that politics are now affecting their families and children, with one child notifying her school of this night time sign incident.
Those who have experienced an invasion of privacy are often understandably shaken. “My wife is still very on edge, always looking at the camera, she sees everything. It’s sort of uncomfortable. That was their goal right?” Castriotta explains the continuing effects of the sign placement.
More alarmingly, this may not have been the only incident associated with an attempt at political intimidation. YS confirms that there have been other incidents of stalking reported by Broomfield elected officials, and that extra police patrols have been requested in regards to the Council member’s safety.
Discussion about regulating access to firearms often leads to passionate advocates on both sides of the issue. There is still a line that should not be crossed when engaging in the local political process. Intimidation and false advertising are not legitimate democratic tactics. These actions need to be widely condemned to maintain a healthy democracy. Mayor Castriotta states “I received quite a few empathetic, compassionate emails from people on the other side of the issue that said ‘we don’t condone that, that’s not us.’”
“I hope their intent was more political theater and less intimidation… trespassing and misrepresentation simply is not an effective way to make your case,” Council Member Todd Cohen wrote in an email to YS.
The introduction of fear and the use of violence in high profile incidents like the January 6th 2021 storming of the United States Capitol building have heightened the political atmosphere to the point that local government officials often feel endangered simply by performing their jobs.
Although unrelated to this political sign incident, former Superior City Council trustee Laura Skladzinski previously stated to YS that she would not be seeking re-election for her seat following threatening and harassing messages that were sent to her after a controversial vote on land development.
It may seem shocking to hear of these tactics being employed against your local elected officials, but this is not the first time groups have attempted to sway the democratic process outside of legal means. “I felt like I’ve been followed, mainly on the oil and gas stuff we were fighting,” Castriotta said in reference to previous stalking incidents, “when we were fighting fracking, that was the other time I always felt like I was in danger.”
Politicians are still humans, and your local leaders are likely to be your neighbors, not just a faceless entity of government. Every elected official is open to scrutiny and debate that is crucial to a functioning democracy. Using public comments, petitions and protests to affect change is all part of the process.
When incidents like this drive away regular people from running for government we are left with radicals and extremists who are willing to endure this type of harassment in order to achieve their vision.
As to why Broomfield City Council is facing this current round of intimidation Castriotta has little doubt. “This is the first time we’ve taken up gun safety regulations, we hadn’t angered that group yet,” Castriotta stated.
“I think they tried to make it as a joke, and it was poorly executed,” Henkel offers.
The next City Council meeting regarding gun safety measures is not yet scheduled but will possibly be held in June. Discussion has been tabled on the remaining gun safety issues according to Henkel. When discussion is picked back up the public is welcome to comment at City Council meetings.