After the Lincoln Day event Wednesday night, the protesters took their message inside the hotel. According to Tres Melton, they just wanted to discuss issues with the Republicans who showed up for the dinner, and while they were mingling with the crowd, they were surrounded by security and told that they had to leave the property. Melton was asked to leave.
Chris Nixon, with We Are Change Colorado, was spotted by security while he was handing out fliers and putting them on cars in the garage. He was asked to leave and told the quickest way was the elevator, which he took to the first floor and found himself deposited right into the event's crowd. Laying low, Nixon still was spotted by a security guard who noticed his trademark bullhorn. He was approached and escorted out.
Jeff Wright was in the bar and was accosted by a Republican party member, he says, who told him that he was the "problem with the party." While he was being yelled at, he says, a security guard came up and kicked him out, too.
"They are afraid of new information that might be different than what the party leadership might believe," Wright says of the Republicans. "They always over-react this way. They don't like freedoms and they don't like liberties. They just love control, which is epitomized by Karl Rove and there's an entire faction of the party that disagrees with Rove."
——————ORIGINAL POST AT 8:22 P.M. WEDNESDAY—————————-
A small group of protesters have gathered outside the Antlers Hilton in downtown Colorado Springs, speaking to reporters. They are waiting for the guest of honor Wednesday night at the local Republicans' Lincoln Day Dinner, Karl Rove.
They have their signs and bullhorns, but they aren't sure where to stand. There are too many entrances for their slim numbers to cover. They don't know where Rove will be coming in, so they settle on setting up the Cascade side entrance.
"Karl Rove does not represent all Republicans!"
"Karl Rove is no better than Obama!"
"Karl Rove is a war criminal!"
I am handed a quote credited to Abraham Lincoln by Tres Melton, a onetime delegate state assembly and the 5th Congressional District, that reads in part: "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people that inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right to amend it, or thei revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."
The Heritage Ballroom is filled with about 700 El Paso County Republicans, a local who's who waiting anxiously for Rove to arrive. They munch on buttered bread and drink noisily over a recorded speech by the national GOP chair, Reince Priebus.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is up next and gets applause from the crowd for his retelling of his efforts to de-illegalize the supposedly overrun state voter rolls.
John Suthers, Colorado's attorney general, thanks the assembled for their support in the last election, adding that it is hard to beat a statewide candidate whp can get 71 percent of the vote in El Paso County.
"This isn't about health insurance. This is about federalism," he says of the lawsuit against President Obama's health-care reform. He calls it the most important case in the past 40 years.
While they eat chicken piccata and limp green beans, Rove circulates through the crowd.
El Paso County chair Eli Bremer thanks the volunteers who helped put together the dinner, and introduces Rove, "The man, the myth, the legend, the architect."
"Sit down, sit down," Rove scolds the crowd. "The man, the myth, the legend? Please, my worst enemies could do better than that."
The stimulus has been an utter failure to solve a "sputtering" economy, he says.
Since Obama became president, spending on non-military discretionary has gone up by 84 percent. The Obama administration hasn't solved the problems of recession and unemployment that started under Bush.
You see, he says, the Bush deficit spending under Bush was because of the wars. Under Obama, the deficit spending is because of the president's failed policy.
A Texan, Rove says he is a simple person, not as sophisticated as people from Colorado. He argues that of the 46 million people in America who don't have health insurance, a fifth of them aren't citizens.
Health-care reform "is the only piece of social legislation that has gotten less popular after it was passed," he says, because the people who work in the health-care field don't like the bill.
He lingers on the supposed negative impacts of the Affordable Care Act. The horror stories of the doctors who will be forced to retire early, the businessmen who will be forced into dropping employees down to part-time, the assorted extra taxes that this crowd will be forced to pay, and so on.
While Rove sells these popular Republican tropes to a friendly crowd, outside Jeff Wright, one of the original petitioners for TABOR and state field director for Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign in three states, stands on the corner of Cascade and Colorado avenues.
This small group of rabble that he is representing isn't an isolated phenomenon, he says. He sees their protest against a Republican event hosting the architect of George Bush's neocon seizure of the GOP as thematic of a larger, national unrest among conservatives.
"We are the Republicans that started complaining first about the Rove and Bush strategies," Wright says: the endless wars, TARP, the PATRIOT Act. The liberty-minded, he says, are fed up with the direction of the party. "Things are coming to a head, and it is happening all over the country."