Published: June 8, 2016

Original article can be found at Daily Camera  
Originally published on June 8, 2016 By Carah Wertheimer 

A book talk by Gov. John Hickenlooper at the First Congregational Church in Boulder turned unexpectedly chaotic Wednesday night when it was disrupted by anti-fracking protesters from a group called the Colorado Community Rights Network. 

The Colorado governor was forced to abandon his initial effort to speak. Smiling, Hickenlooper appeared to take it in stride, eventually jumping on the church piano and playing a lively tune. 

Meanwhile, audience member Patty Limerick got up and grabbed the microphone, assuming the role of moderator. She tried first to calm the crowd and then sat and talked with individual protestors. She is the faculty director and chair of the board at the University of Colorado’s Center of the American West. 

Hickenlooper then proceeded to the Boulder Book Store, which sponsored the event, and changed the schedule around in an attempt to break the gridlock. 

When the governor finally resumed speaking at the church an hour later, he was accompanied by two security guards in close proximity in the sanctuary, and there were four police officers on the premises. 

One female protester said that she was assaulted and injured on her arm as she protected herself from a woman hurling a cellphone at her face. Both women were issued tickets by Boulder police and charged with physical harassment. 

A second female protester said that she was also assaulted by the woman with the cellphone, who had approached her while sitting in a pew, grabbing her wrist and telling her to “get out of here.” 

Stephanie Schindhelm, marketing and promotions manager for the bookstore, has been in her position for five years and said she has never seen anything like Wednesday night’s event. 

Schindhelm finally quieted the room by announcing that police would remove anyone who continued to disrupt. Protesters had vowed to continue, despite raising the ire of nearly everyone else in the room, each of whom paid $10 to attend. 

Two themes emerged among the remaining audience members: Nearly everyone expressed that they found the protesters’ behavior disrespectful — not only of the governor, but of the audience members. 

“Counterproductive,” “Ripped off,” “You’re hurting your cause,” “Acting like 10-year-old kids,” and “We have rights too” were sentiments held in common. 

Some also expressed frustration that the protesters seemed to want only to express their views and were unwilling to talk or negotiate, despite offers to be allotted time to share their views in exchange for allowing the governor to speak. 

“We the people of Colorado hold you in contempt,” “We are not going away,” and “No fracking way,” protesters chanted at full volume, and toured a large “Frackenlooper Overturns Democracy” banner around the room. 

For Boulder’s Elisa Browsch, the evening was disappointing and not what she expected. 

However, she said, “It was worth the $10 to watch the event unfold.” 

The Camera attempted to interview numerous people at the event, including from the protest group, but very few were willing to identify themselves and speak on the record.