Open-carry supporters, opponents sent away

Castle Rock Post Office manager directs protesters, others off grounds

Ryan Boldrey
Nick Chavasse, of Castle Rock, stands outside the Castle Rock Rec Center in protest to the petition drive that hopes to overturn Town Council’s recent decision to repeal the open-carry laws in public buildings and open space around Castle Rock or bring it to a town vote. The rec center was one of three locales that petitioners and protesters showed up at over the weekend of Feb. 22-23.
Ryan Boldrey
The Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock was one of many public locales that petitioners were present at the weekend of Feb. 22-23 with the hopes of gathering enough signatures to force Town Council to overturn its recent decision to repeal the open-carry laws in public buildings and open space around Castle Rock (or have the item placed on a ballot). Everywhere they went in town, there were also gun rights advocates, far right, protesting the petition drive.

Organizers of a referendum effort — started after Castle Rock Town Council voted Jan. 28 to repeal a ban on the open-carrying of weapons in municipal buildings and facilities — said they were trying to get signatures on Feb. 22 at the post office when a couple with two barking dogs, later joined by others, purposely yelled and caused so much disruption post office management forced everyone to leave.

Jacob Vargish, one of the organizers, said the people with signs that had messages such as “Don’t let radicals trick you into signing away your civil rights,” spread around the parking lot and yelled as petition circulators approached postal patrons.

On the other side, repeal supporter John Villachica, of Castle Rock verified Feb. 24 to the News-Press that he was the author of a recent email, which was encouraging repeal supporters to appear at the locations where signature gatherers of this “radical leftist group” planned to be.

Villachica, who said he was just a concerned citizen and not a member of any group, said he is concerned about the possible loss of civil rights. He also said he was voicing his First Amendment right to speak and to assemble when he and his family were threatened.

He declined to say when that happened, where he was, or what type of threat or who it was that threatened him.

Vargish said at about 9:30 a.m. Feb. 22 at the post office, two Castle Rock police cars arrived and talked to the protesters who then became silent, but then when police left “the yelling and haranguing resumed.”

Vargish said one protester in particular was “very belligerent … He would approach our signers within inches of their faces and yell at them, calling them `communists’…”

Vargish said eventually the post office manager said there had been too many complaints and that they would have to move to public sidewalks along the street.

“We complied, although we had been peaceable gathering petition signatures there at the post office nearly daily for over two weeks,” Vargish said, adding that moving that far away meant they were no longer able to talk to postal patrons.

Vargish said the same protesters “accosted another petition circulator at the library” around 11 a.m. and then later showed up at the recreation center.

On the Facebook page for Carry On Colorado, a Castle Rock business that offers firearms instruction, was this Feb. 22 post:

“Calling all Patriots!!! If you have a few minutes to spare today please consider helping some fellow freedom fighters in Castle Rock! We have friends stationed at some of the places where petitioners are attempting to collect signatures to cancel the Castle Rock Town Council’s repeal of the open carry vote. If the petitioners can get enough signatures it will force the issue to be on the ballot. We should not have to vote to restore/keep our liberty! Head ove (sic) to the post office, library and Rec Center and help those who are trying to spread the word!!!”

In a Feb. 23 post: “…We chased them out of the post office, then setup shop at the rec. center and the library. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive!!”

Referendum supporters have until 5 p.m. Feb. 27 to submit 1,887 signatures to the town clerk, who will then verify the signatures.

If the group’s effort is successful, town council will either have to reconsider their decision or schedule a special election.

Vargish said Feb. 23 that he believed the group had enough signatures for their effort but that they were going to continue to collect signatures up until Feb. 26 or 27 in case they ran into any complications with any of the signatures.