COLORADO CITY, Ariz. – Demonstrators gathered Saturday afternoon in Colorado City at the site of what used to be the Dezereta service station but is now an untenanted property. Attendees shouted to passing cars and held up signs bearing messages like, “The people are tired of no rights,” “Do our votes really count?” and “No more corruption.”
This is the second such demonstration community members have staged in Colorado City in an effort to bring attention to alleged corruption in the town and in neighboring Hildale, Utah – border communities that are reportedly run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Jailed FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving life plus 20 years in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting two underage girls, is said to still run the FLDS church from inside prison with his brother Lyle Jeffs managing church affairs on the outside.
From the city management to local law enforcement, every facet of government in Colorado City and Hildale is reportedly under the control of the FLDS church – an allegation the towns continue to deny.
A federal civil rights trial got underway in Phoenix this week regarding allegations of discrimination perpetrated by the town governments against non-FLDS, non-polygamist residents. Non-FLDS and ex-FLDS residents say they have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, violence and even unfair arrest at the hands of the town marshals and other FLDS church members.
“The biggest reason we’re here (is) to support the trial that’s ongoing down in Phoenix and our friends down there testifying,” protest organizer Terrill Musser, of Hildale, said. “We want them to know that the people do support what they’re doing.”
“They’re brave, testifying against what they need to down there,” he said, “to set some truth and bring some justice to this town.”
The peaceful rally was strategically organized to take place the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, said Musser, who is a former FLDS member. Protesters carried Martin Luther King signs and played music as community members continue the long-fought battle for civil rights in their own town. FLDS people are raised to be racist, Musser said, and they definitely are not taught to honor Martin Luther King.
“That’s going to be really different out here,” Musser said, “because how we were raised – it wasn’t about Martin Luther King. So it’s a new beginning here.”
“We’re hoping that the trial in Phoenix will be successful and we can take our towns back so we can have some civil rights out here,” he added.
Colorado City resident and former FLDS member George Jessop, who was among attendees at the rally, said he hopes to become mayor someday, should the court end up taking a significant action like dissolving the town governments in Colorado City and Hildale. Currently, a non-FLDS person being elected as mayor is not likely to happen.
“They (the FLDS church) have a lot of people that don’t live in the community that are still registered voters here,” Jessop said, “and they’ll come in and vote and swing the ballot, swing the voting so that they can keep who they want in there.”
“We want it to be fair,” he added. “We want to make it so that people can get on a ballot and run for the mayor or city council or whatever without being intimidated for trying to take that position from somebody that’s been there for a long time.”
Musser, who has a debilitating illness called Milroy disease, is confined to a wheelchair and has already outlived the life expectancy given him by doctors, but he has nonetheless taken up the cause of organizing these rallies and trying to effect change in the community he loves.
“We just want this to be nationwide to where the people, the public, really knows what’s going on here,” Musser said. “We want to send a message to the outside that we want to open up our town to the outside world. We want people to come here and see the beautiful sceneries and the awesome people. We’re not all bad out here, and we want to change that name and change that reputation, but it’s going to have to start with almost dismantling everything and starting over to change that. But that’s our goal.”
Musser said he and others want to continue holding rallies and doing all they can to promote positive change in Colorado City and Hildale.
“I feel so strongly about this town and I love this town, and I love this place that I live (and) I want to change it,” he said. “And if I feel that strongly, I can’t go ask someone else to do it. If it takes a guy in a wheelchair to get things going, that’s what I’ll do.”
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