By Charlie Blackmer
Initially muffled by the sound of Grand Avenue traffic, then amplified by the walls inside City Hall, the voices of around 20 protesters rang out Monday in opposition of what they believe to be the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce’s continued endorsement of at-large councilmember elect, Rick Brainard.
The protest was organized by the local group Women Helping Others Resist Exploitation and Sexism (ironically and intentionally dubbed WHORES).
The Grand Junction WHORES, as many members refer to themselves, were responding to an article that appeared Sunday in the Daily Sentinel in which it was reported that the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce has responded to queries about Brainard on its Facebook page by saying that it will “review its position on Brainard at a later point.”
Brainard, who was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, was arrested the night of April 6 at his home in the Redlands after his girlfriend called the police to report that Brainard had struck her and pinned her against a dresser following an argument between the two.
According to the arrest affidavit, Brainard originally denied having struck the woman, then later admitted he had done so because “she needed to shut her mouth.”
Organizers of Monday’s protest believe that by refusing to take a position until Brainard has received “due process”, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce as a whole is supporting violence against women in the community.
“The Chamber is endorsing violence against women by not taking a stand against Brainard. They’re saying that he hasn’t had a fair trial but he admits that he abuses people when they need to shut their mouths,” organizer Robyn Parker said. “And it doesn’t matter if he’s convicted or not, violence is how he manages himself and we don’t want that in our leader. It’s very frustrating that the Chamber won’t make a stand or back down.”
Monday’s demonstrators, 21 in all, gathered around the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, 360 Grand Ave., at 12 p.m. Many brought handmade signs and newly printed T-shirts that read, “Domestic Violence is a ‘No Brainard’”, referring to Brainard’s election-time tagline.
Two security guards from Citadel Security and Investigation were also present outside the Chamber of Commerce. Usually only contracted to sweep the Chamber’s building in the mornings and at night, Citadel employee Kirsten Miller said her presence and that of another guard were requested by the Chamber.
“The Chamber is the one who got a hold of us to come here,” Miller said. “Basically we’re just watching for property damage and making sure they’re not blocking any exits.”
After a quick pep talk, Monday’s protesters started to move, holding signs toward traffic on Grand Avenue, shouting “no Brainard, no Brainard, no Brainard” and eliciting honks from passing cars.
The group then moved down Grand Avenue and onto 5th Street, south toward the Grand Junction City Hall where they paused for a moment before pouring into the building, chanting “hey hey, ho ho, Brainard’s got to go.”
Robert Noble, who ran unsuccessfully against Harry Butler in April for the City Council’s District D seat was also at the rally.
“I watched my mother be bullied and yelled at by my father when I was a kid. These sorts of things happen all too frequently,” Noble said. “Domestic violence, violence against women, in this day in age, in this society, they shouldn’t be condoned in any way.”
“The problem is, if he’s allowed to take his seat, it shows the community doesn’t care. It says that, whether it’s true or not, it says that to the world. I think gatherings like this prove that the community does not condone [domestic violence].”
“I don’t think Rick Brainard will resign. He’s, I believe, in denial over his actions, he doesn’t understand the outrage,” Noble said.
Noble, Parker and others involved in the protest are hoping the attention they draw will bring about a recall election, the objective of which would be to prevent Brainard from taking his City Council seat in May.
“If we aren’t able to that, as a community,” Noble said, “we become the laughingstock of the whole state and possibly the whole country.”
After winding through the halls of the otherwise quiet City Hall, demonstrators gathered on the south side of the building to regroup. Copies of Brainard’s arrest affidavit from April 6 were passed around and read aloud. Watch and listen here.
“His personal difficulties are casting a shadow on [the Chamber's] other candidates, on their other council members now,” demonstrator and former Catholic Campus minister at CMU, Janet Johnson, said. “They have chosen to be very political but to ignore the ethics.”
Edited by: Annie Halverstadt