AUGUST 20, 2019 BY
Friday evening rally to protest Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s policies
U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt
Courtesy the Steamboat Institute
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two years, two interior secretaries and two protests.
U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt will speak at the Steamboat Institute’s Freedom Conference later this week, and some plan to protest his policies at the second “Stand for Our Land” rally Friday.
Last year, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke at the conference, drawing a 1,400-person protest to the Routt County Courthouse lawn. Two others disrupted Zinke’s speech within the conference by yelling during the event last year.
“Like his predecessor Ryan Zinke, Secretary Bernhardt continues to evade the public and act against the public’s wishes,” Cody Perry said. “We’re motivated to engage with the secretary to give him a message about our values.
“He’s speaking to a closed-door, right-wing political group, and we want to send him a message,” Perry continued. “We’re simply being good citizens by getting together and expressing our values.”
Perry said organizers are still lining up speakers for the event, but so far, Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan and Emi Cooper, a Steamboat Springs High School student who has organized weekly protests calling for climate action, will address the rally.
Steamboat Institute CEO Jennifer Schubert-Akin said it’s their right to peacefully protest.
“I think free speech is a precious right that is a right we enjoy and treasure as Americans,” she said.
As for the potential of similar protests within Freedom Conference events, Schubert-Akin said any person who attempts to disrupt the conference will be escorted out of the conference and have their registration canceled without a refund.
“Our goal is to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for all our guests, regardless of political ideology,” she wrote in an email. “Reasoned and respectful debate and discussion is always welcome. Hecklers are not.”
Perry anticipated a smaller crowd at this year’s Stand for Our Land rally, because organizers had less time to organize the rally. Bernhardt’s visit was announced during the first week of August. Perry believes the Steamboat Institute strategically held off on announcing the visit until later, saying they “clearly wanted to keep it under wraps until the event was almost here.”
“I know that (the community will) respond in the way they did last year,” he said. “I don’t think that we’ll have the same crowd size, but I’m not worried. My main thing is to get that message out there as a citizen and as an interested party. I mean, here’s the secretary of the Department of the Interior. There’s so much going on. He needs to hear from us in order for him to properly do his job. I feel like I’m doing my duty.”
Schubert-Akin said the announcement was not withheld, but that the Steamboat Institute extended the invitation following news that the Interior Department intended to relocate the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters from Washington D.C., to Grand Junction. She said the Institute announced Bernhardt’s visit as soon as it received confirmation that he was coming.
“The previous protests had zero bearing on the timing of the announcement or of the decision to even invite him,” she said.
While those organizing the protest are finalizing details, the Steamboat Institute is preparing for guests and speakers to arrive for the weekend’s conference.