Equal protection means equal enforcement | Igualdad en la protección y la aplicación de la ley
This blog post is authored by a Rifle resident and a leader of Voces Unidas. At their request, we are publishing anonymously. The fact that we have to protect the identity of our Latino leaders due to fear of retaliation says a lot about the state of Rifle and Garfield County.
I didn’t think to bring ear plugs to the peaceful #BlackLivesMatter march that took place on Juneteenth of this year. Shame on me, I guess, but then again you have to be able to keep your wits about you in a situation like that. With "concerned citizens" peacefully exercising their right to open carry mixed into the crowd, you want to keep all of your senses working optimally in the event that violence erupts. You’ve also got to just hope that everyone keeps a cool head and that no vehicle backfires loud enough to agitate the crowd. I wasn’t surprised to see a large group of bikers counter-protesting the march, even as they rode alongside us for several blocks. What caught me off guard, as intended, was their decision to leapfrog the march and park within a few feet of us—backed in for maximum effect—to rev their engines and raise caustic little plumes of exhaust at several parking lots along the route. Luckily for me, I decided not to bring my young child to this event (as I didn’t want them exposed to the potential vitriol of counter-protestors). My kid would lose their interest in motorcycles real quick if they’d been walking with Dad, since they would have been much closer to the level of the cacophonous mufflers belching carcinogens and particulates in order to drown out and chemically erode our First Amendment speech. My throat was sore and my ears were ringing right on through Father’s Day. Rifle’s Municipal Code (Sec. 10-11-10) states a purpose “to preserve the quality of life, health, safety and welfare of The City by preventing, reducing, and monitoring noise.” It further states that “the hazards related to excessive noise include physical harm to community members and detrimental effects to the safety thereof.” Section 10-11-30 states that “no person shall make or create any noise disturbances, including but not limited to [those specifically listed in the Article]”, so simply having a muffler doesn’t guarantee compliance. Section 10-11-110 classifies any violation of the Noise Disturbance article as a Class B municipal offense (disrupting a lawful assembly is listed as a Class A municipal offense in a previous section, 10-3-20). I’m no attorney, but it would seem from these articles that the City is aware of the health and safety risks associated with loud noises. Were we, as protesters, expected to waive our right to the health and safety protections of these statutes by virtue of our politics? Does First Amendment free speech apply to the malicious weaponization of vehicles capable of producing that trademark exhaust rumble in the range of 70-100 dB? That is within the range capable of causing pain and permanent hearing damage according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Are the people weaponizing their vehicles to silence their fellow Americans exonerated from the damage done if their intent was only to silence, gas, and intimidate—if they claim ignorance to the fact that their actions would cause pain, damage, and potential trauma to their fellow man? Is it even possible for a Harley-Davidson owner to not be aware that they’re loud enough to cause harm? My guess is that we’re going to see a lot more of this behavior at otherwise peaceful protests unless our officials at the Police Department or City level are willing to clarify publicly—and in no uncertain terms—that these are violations of the law. I just hope that one of these vehicles doesn’t backfire too close to an itchy trigger finger next time.