DENVER — Local and national leaders of a right-wing movement seeking to violently overturn the 2020 election results gathered outside the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday, resurrecting a series of baseless conspiracy theories and telling a crowd of hundreds of followers that they are waging a “spiritual battle” against evil.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a close ally of former President Donald Trump and one of the nation’s most prominent Holocaust deniers, headlined Tuesday’s rally, which also featured speeches from four sitting lawmakers of Colorado and Mesa County Clerk and Registrar Tina Peters, who was indicted by a grand jury last month for her alleged role in allowing election conspiracy theorists access to secure voting materials.
“You guys here in Colorado, you’re in a battle – you’re like the tip of the spear (against) evil of epic proportions,” Lindell told the crowd in a rambling 45-minute speech on the steps of the Capitol.
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“If we don’t get people like Tina Peters and other brave people, we could lose our country forever,” Lindell said. “The good news is that we’re not going to. God has a plan bigger than us.
Speaking to reporters ahead of his speech, Lindell reportedly said he contributed “maybe $800,000 of my own money” to Peters’ legal defense fund, according to The Colorado Sun. This fund is the subject of an ethics complaint filed against Peters, in addition to his other legal woes.
Lindell was also seen being served with a trial just before going on stage. A lawsuit filed Monday in Denver District Court by Eric Coomer, a former Dominion Voting Systems employee and target of unsubstantiated 2020 election conspiracy theories, names Lindell and two of his companies, MyPillow and FrankSpeech, as defendants.
After Trump was defeated by President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, Peters, a health and wellness coach elected to the position of clerk and recorder in 2018, began promoting false claims that widespread fraud determined the result. She and a former deputy, Belinda Knisley, allegedly allowed an unauthorized party access to secure election equipment before and after a software update in May 2021. Weeks later, data and passwords from election systems in the Mesa County were leaked by Ron Watkins, a leading figure in the QAnon conspiratorial movement.
“For people who say we have to look forward, we have to fix what happened in 2020,” Peters told supporters on Tuesday.
To date, three reports published by Peters and his allies claiming to show evidence of fraud have been repeatedly debunked by election officials and experts. Dozens of legal challenges to the election results have been dismissed by the courts.
Polls have shown, however, that the overwhelming majority of Republican voters continue to believe false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Nineteen of the 21 Republican members of the State House present for a vote in January on the amendment endorsing conspiracy theories for the 2020 election voted for the measure, while current GOP chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown has campaigned for the position pushing similar demands.
State Rep. Ron Hanks of Cañon City, a first-term lawmaker who admitted walking through police lines outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 assault by pro-Trump rioters, warned the attendees at Tuesday’s rally not to be misled by Republican candidates “who have been fighting (for election integrity) for the past week. Hanks is the only sitting lawmaker in the party’s crowded U.S. Senate primary field.
“From a national security and national sovereignty perspective, we are on a razor’s edge – on a razor’s edge to address this issue,” he said.
GOP state Reps. Richard Holtorf of Akron, Mark Baisley of Littleton and Dave Williams of Colorado Springs also spoke at the rally. Williams is mounting a main challenge against incumbent Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 5th Congressional District. The state GOP will hold its assembly on April 9, ahead of a primary election in June.
“The Republican Party shows us who they really are. In the week before their state assembly, two of America’s leading Holocaust deniers come to Colorado to champion the Big Lie candidates,” Morgan Carroll, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said in a statement about Lindell’s event. “It’s no secret that the momentum of the GOP rests with far-right extremists.”
Threats of violence
Tuesday’s event was promoted by FEC United, the far-right group founded by Douglas County activist Joe Oltmann, who has used his “Conservative Daily” podcast to repeatedly call for the mass hanging of his political opponents, including Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
In the weeks following the 2020 election, Oltmann, who was present at Tuesday’s rally but did not take the stage, was instrumental in spreading a baseless conspiracy theory alleging that Dominion Voting Systems , based in Denver, was involved in the perpetration of widespread voter fraud.
On his show, Oltmann regularly mixes commentary on the 2020 election and current events with elements and images of QAnon and Pizzagate conspiracy theories, claiming the government is run by a satanic cabal of pedophiles and contemplating a day of reckoning. on which Trump supporters be “able to build gallows from Washington, DC, to California.”
Lindell himself was photographed outside the White House holding a document referencing “martial law” shortly before Trump left office, and he predicted repeatedly throughout 2021 that Trump would soon be “ reinstated” as president by the Supreme Court.
Peters, meanwhile, has regularly appeared alongside far-right activists who endorse or raise the possibility of political violence. During a November 2021 live stream with supporters, Peters said of Cory Anderson, a Mesa County man associated with the Three Percenters militia movement, “Cory needs to be a sheriff.”
Tuesday’s rally was patrolled by members of the United American Defense Force, a militia linked to FEC United. John Tiegen, UADF founder and former Trump campaign surrogate, told a reporter that his organization “makes sure it stays peaceful”.
“(This) is nothing to worry about for our legislators, as long as they do their job and respect our constitutional rights,” Sherronna Bishop, activist and former campaign manager for Rep. Lauren Boebert of Silt, told the crowd. “There’s nothing to worry about, as long as they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”
As Lindell spoke to reporters before his speech, he was briefly heckled by a man, who declined to give his name, chanting “F- him and his pillows and his lies.” A group of Lindell supporters surrounded the man, and a man wearing an “F—Antifa” shirt and Trump 2020 hat attempted to physically confront the protester but was restrained.
The unidentified man said out loud, trying to get others to join him in a physical confrontation, “We are Americans, we kill communists. I want a scalp. There is a war and we lose because we don’t fight.
Lindell repeatedly invoked religious imagery and praised the crowd for fighting what he called a “spiritual battle of epic proportions.” He and other speakers denounced the General Assembly’s recent passage of a bill to protect the right to abortion, falsely claiming that the bill would allow “infanticide” within 30 days after birth.
“Every day people are flocking to common sense reality, and they’re looking for hope, and they’re finally out there praying – and we’ll be, once again, one nation under God, we’ll have God back to our schools,” Lindell said.
He ended his lengthy speech by promoting MyPillow, the Minnesota-based company he founded in 2009.
“I’ll say it,” he told the cheering crowd. “Use promo code ‘Dominion’ today to receive 66% off.”
Newsline’s Quentin Young contributed to this report.
This article was first published by Colorado Newsline, part of the United States News Bureau Network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Quentin Young with any questions: [email protected] Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.