Two weeks have passed since I picked up the phone and called Interim Salida City Administrator Christy Doon, asking about a legal opinion from the Salida City Attorney regarding the alarm being caused by the man armed with an assault rifle who has taken up a position at F Street and First St. in downtown Salida.
Was the city going to weigh in on the Colorado Statute that permits ordinary citizens alarmed by those wielding guns to express that alarm?” I asked. Or was it going to hide behind what many see as a misplaced recitation of the Second Amendment — Oh — and the First Amendment too.
Doon agreed that the situation was worthy of a Salida city attorney’s opinion on whether or not it is going to require that a legitimate Colorado statute be enforced. We got the answer yesterday and it appears nearly as concerning as the man’s presence on F St.
In the meantime, the self-professed white supremacist and gunman (who has let it be known he is eager to join the hate group known as the Proud Boys) continues to show up on a prominent downtown Salida corner every Sunday, even after the city removed the summer plaza barriers last week. This past Sunday, Sept. 10 he was accompanied by a partner, carrying an AR-15, while he sports a large, all-black flag.
For the uninitiated, that black flag is a signal. The Salida Police Department says he isn’t threatening anyone — but the black flag’s meaning says otherwise, just as his shouting of the name of this publication through a bullhorn a few weeks ago was a signal. It’s an escalation of the messaging that Taylor has been sending to this community.
For what, we could ask, is he willing to “fight to the death and seek the complete and total desolation of the enemy”? Who exactly is the enemy? Could it be us?
We know his presence has alarmed Salida residents, businesses, and visitors, and frightened children who had set up a lemonade stand on F Street. He video-records all those who attempted to talk with him. Those who disagree get a profane tirade.
This self-professed white supremacist is not alone, even if it seems so in Salida. As January 6, 2021, moves further into our rearview mirror, and sedition prosecutions have proceeded of those involved, the country isn’t at this time seeing the big far-right protests surrounding the 2020 election.
Instead, the political violence the GOP and right-wing militant groups is manifesting in other ways — such as the one on the streets of downtown Salida. While it is masquerading as amendment rights, this is actually the normalization of violence, chaos and guns. Is this a protest? Does it require a permit?
Journalist Andy Campbell, author of We Are Proud Boys, credits the “violent misogyny” of the early 2000s media landscape with allowing the extremist group to thrive:
First, Danny Taylor was alone on U.S. 50. When someone challenged him with a peaceful counter-protest, he threatened the man. He frightened nearby businesses. He has indeed been known to yell and swear and scream at anyone who confronts him. Then Taylor moved to F Street. He videotapes people, including children.
Then he added friends. Then he added a bullhorn. Now he’s added a black flag. When and where is this going to stop? The question could be asked: Will it be when he shoots and kills someone?
For those who may wonder why I made that call to Doon, these earlier Ark Valley Voice news stories can provide the missing information. This includes not just the alarm voiced by citizens, but the threats of false reporting made by law enforcement against at least two Salida citizens, as well as the response from law enforcement reiterating that they can’t do anything because of the Constitution:
Downtown Salida business owners have expressed not just alarm and fear — but frustration for the economic impact of a man with an assault rifle standing in front of their shops scaring the bee-geezers out of their employees — let alone the tourists who wonder what alternative Wild West show they have dropped into.
This is not a simple Second and First Amendment case; as it’s being presented by the Salida Police Department. This is our local example of spreading rural extremism. The various extreme right factions in this country are coalescing. This is being ignored and in many cases condoned by local law enforcement.
This isn’t just boys being boys, folks. This is the rising tide of violent white supremacy fanned by culture war memes, joining forces with anti-government, militant groups, and Christian nationalism segments. It is the early stages of authoritarianism in all the colors of anti-government, hate, bigotry, and racism.
It is time for the city and its elected leaders to put on their big boys’ pants and big girls’ pants and deal with this.
Editor’s note: “Our Voice is our Ark Valley Voice editorial opinion section. We’ve had several comments on this editorial opinion (and in fact on others written in the past few weeks about this issue and others related to guns, civil behavior, and the Constitution) where the commenter is not brave enough to use his or her own name. If you can’t use your own name to criticize us, then we don’t publish your comments. As always the rules of civility, decency, and libel apply.