Local LGBTQ activist takes Mesa County Commissioners to task for inaction

GRAND JUNCTION, CO – Joanna Gibson, her blond hair proudly styled in sharp spikes, spoke during the public comment period at this morning’s Mesa County Commissioners meeting and demanded that each county official sitting at the dais take accountability for the recent officer-involved killings in the county.

“I’m asking you to be uncomfortable with me,” Gibson said.

Gibson, a new resident of Mesa County, was referring to the recent deaths of Steven Alire of Grand Junction and Jayne Thompson, a transgender woman from Bisbee, AZ, who was killed by Colorado State Patrol officer Jason Wade in Orchard Mesa in May. In both cases, the District Attorney’s office, led by Dan Rubinstein, declined to press charges against the offending officers.

In her comment, Gibson said that not only have the officers involved in the shooting not been investigated, “the public has not even had a chance to see videos of these encounters.” She said that the information is not readily accessible and are often “behind walls”.

Gibson called each of the Commissioners by name, as well as that of the Clerk of the Board, the County Attorney, and the County Administrator. “You all have the power to do something right now. I’m talking to Kelly, John, Scott, Rose, Peter, Patrick — all of you could individually say something today to the public.”

She went on to point out their “influence over funds”, and suggested that “funds from these giant tanks these cops roll around town, SWAT teams that intimidate the public” could be allocated to the [Critical Incident Response Teams] instead.

“You all have the power to do something like that. I expect that this governing body in Grand Junction will stand up for this community and make this town a safer place for our communities, especially [those] in the marginalized communities.”

In an interview after the meeting, Gibson said that she wanted to speak out because “this board [here] in Grand Junction has not taken a stand with the community to say that they’re not going to let police get away with murdering us here. Because I wanted them to personally know that they’re going to be held to account by members of the public here and in town.”

Gibson said that so much of people’s attention about these issues have been focused on national news, but that “there are very much systemic issues here in Grand Junction that we could be addressing, that these people with their positions of power could be addressing.”

She said that she chose to call the officials’ names out individually because “those are humans. They’re not the board. It’s not some amorphous body of people.”

Gibson referred to the standard practice of government officials in meetings, such as at the county commissioners’ meetings, addressing each other by title. “If you’re referring to each other as Commissioner and Chairman and Board or whatever, it gives people, like, the ability to hide behind the positions and to not take responsibility for their actions as people. And I want them to know that they are just as much a part of the community as I am.”

Gibson said she’d like to be able to see government officials walk through the community and see someone like her and say, “‘Hey, I’m okay with you being here. I’m okay with knowing that I’ve done everything in my power, with a position that I’ve been given, to stand up for you, to hold space for you, to make sure that this community is better and safer.'”

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