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Protesters return to home of public health director in Durango

Group formed across street, ‘outside the prohibited zone,’ police chief says
Jollon

Protesters returned to the home of San Juan Basin Public Heath Executive Director Liane Jollon on Sunday, according to the Durango Police Department.

A group of about 20 protesters first gathered outside the private home of Jollon on Jan. 14 to object to state-issued public health orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Durango police Chief Bob Brammer denounced the event, saying officers would enforce a state law that says people or groups are not allowed to target specific people at their homes, in what’s known as “targeted residential picketing.”

The state law says individuals are first issued a written warning. If the person is caught again targeting a residence, a citation is written for a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $5,000.

About 10 protesters returned for an hour or two Sunday afternoon, but instead of standing outside her home, the demonstrators stood across the street from Jollon’s home on public property.

Brammer also said the protesters were “outside the prohibited zone.” According to the state law, protesting outside a residence is allowed if located 300 feet or more from the home.

Brammer said the group was more than 300 feet from Jollon’s house.

As a result, Brammer said Monday, the protesters were not in violation of any codes or laws. Officers responded to and monitored the event Sunday, but did not make contact with the protesters, he said.

“This is an extremely unfortunate situation we’re in,” Brammer said. “But the law is the law.”

Jollon said she could hear the protesters yelling at her while she was inside her house. She said she feels bad for her neighbors, who were outside shoveling snow. Children were also outside playing.

“I feel terrible for my neighbors,” Jollon said.

Public health orders are issued by the state of Colorado, yet Jollon has become the target for some local members of the public who disagree with certain regulations aimed at slowing the virus’ spread.

“I don’t love the public health measures we’re all practicing right now to save lives,” Jollon said. “But this is what we need to do as a community to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Michael Goldman, SJBPH’s attorney, said the health department is looking at possible measures to stop the protests outside Jollon’s home.

“We’re looking into every opportunity,” he said. “We’re not leaving any stone unturned.”

Goldman said that despite being across the street, Jollon is still being targeted and harassed.

“They are definitely targeting her, which is unfortunate,” he said. “All she’s doing is looking out for the public good and their health. They (the protesters) are misguided.”

Marybeth Synder, a Pagosa Springs resident, said she attended the Jan. 14 protest to send a message that the public health orders are not legal laws and businesses should be allowed to fully reopen.

SJBPH serves both Archuleta and La Plata counties.

Synder also takes issue with SJBPH carrying out and enforcing the state’s public health orders, as well as what Synder perceives as a lack of community engagement.

“Nothing against the woman, I’m just trying to wake her up,” she said.

Synder said that since Jollon is working remotely, her home has now become a “public office.”

“What good would it do to protest in front of an empty building?” said Synder, referring to SJBPH’s offices. “Her home office has become a public office.”

Synder said she did not attend Sunday’s rally.

Durango has seen numerous protests and marches since the pandemic started in March, but for the most part, all of those demonstrations have happened at public spaces.

The only other instances of protesters picketing outside a public figure’s home were when a group formed twice in the past year outside Durango Mayor Dean Brookie’s house.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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