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Part of a large crowd gathered to hear supporters at the Salida Reginal Library rally. Merrell Bergin photo

An enthusiastic crowd of around 300 turned out to support the Salida Regional Library, intellectual freedom, and LGBTQ+ rights on Wednesday afternoon, April 19, in Salida.

Many of the more than 300 who attended the April 19 Rally in support of the Salida Regional Library sported colorful signs. The sign on the left was “a multi-generational effort in our family,” said the sign-holder. Photo by Jan Wondra.

“We’re here to support our library,” said one rally attendee, waving one of the dozens of rainbow flags evident throughout the crowd.

“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and book-banning is wrong,” said another. “So is condemning another person because of who they are.”

Organizers of the original Rosary Rally that had prompted the counter-rally canceled their planned rally across from the library a few days before the planned date. No reason was given for the cancelation. Ark Valley Voice again reached out to give the organizers a voice, but has not received a response to our message.

The fact that the original rally was canceled did not stop the good-natured crowd from gathering to support a beloved community institution. Several serious speakers stressed the importance of protecting individual freedoms during a time of increasing pressure from the right.

A fast-moving front did not deter supporters at the Salida Regional Library rally. Merrell Bergin photo


A crowd of more than 300 attended the April 19 Rally in support of the Salida Regional Library. Photo by Jan Wondra.

In Chaffee County, a message regarding controlling the county agenda was contained as far back as a 2020 message from the Chaffee Republican Committee.

The assembled crowd heard about the need to get involved at the local level in library boards, school boards and other local organizations, to ensure that basic democratic freedoms are protected.

Across the country, groups such as the Our Lady of Fatima organization (which promotes Rosary Rallies) are looking at rural areas as places to advance their agenda. Organizers encouraged the crowd to continue to speak up, so that groups like these know that Salida and Chaffee County know what is going on.

Supporter leans in to hear speaker at rally for inclusiveness at Salida Regional Library. Merrell Bergin photo

“They aren’t just trying to marginalize us – they are trying to erase us from existence,” said Partnership for Community Action (PfCA) Director Jimmy Sellars about the efforts to condemn and marginalize gay people.

The message that had come from the Salida Library was one of appreciation for the community support. Mark Monroe asked for greater community vigilance as threats to the First Amendment, and to the freedoms of the LGBTQ+ people come from several directions.

The crowd cheered the messages, waving banners against book banning, cheering for the library, spelling out the First Amendment, and supporting human rights.

At the close of the rally, the crowd hung about talking and sharing, while dozens disseminated to the nearby street corners of E and 4th streets to wave banners and encourage vehicles passing by to honk in support. They did.

When the prospect of a rally aiming at books in the library and available through the library system was first announced, Salida Regional Library System Director Susan Matthews made this point: “You don’t have to read it — you don’t have to check it out. But you can’t restrict the freedom of others just because you don’t like something.”

Saida Regional Library rally supporters encourage passersby to show solidarity. Merrell Bergin photo

Sellars said that the targets of far-right banning are not just public libraries, but schools. He pointed out that in neighboring Woodland Park, the school district has just lost its state accreditation because the school board had been taken over by conservatives who changed the school curriculum to suit their personal beliefs.

He warned attendees that as the nation moves toward the 2024 election, that the same thing could happen in other school districts unless the public pays attention and stands up for the rights of all, not just some.

Listen to audio of some of the speeches from the rally.