The organizers billed it as a rally against Amendment 62, the "personhood" issue on Colorado ballots for the upcoming election that would give full constitutional rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization. But the event Thursday at the gazebo outside Pioneers Museum turned into a verbal confrontation between players on two sides.
Before people start labeling this as just another black mark on Colorado Springs, though, in fact the main culprit came from 70 miles north.
Bob Enyart, a Denver radio personality and pastor known for his extreme views and tactics, stationed himself near the gazebo stage, held up two "Yes on 62" signs and shouted incessantly, "You're killing kids," in an obvious effort to disrupt the program and speakers talking to the crowd of about 100 people.
His actions incensed many, but the speakers and former City Councilor Richard Skorman, who was serving as emcee, were undaunted.
"This proposal would change our constitution and tell people how to plan their families," Skorman said. "We've defeated this before. Let's stop it for good so that we don't have to keep doing this."
Rosemary Harris Lytle, national PR coordinator for the 9to5 National Association of Working Women and president of the Colorado Springs branch of the NAACP, gave a stirring speech with the recurring theme: "We deserve better than this."
"This is an attack on low-income women and families at risk," Lytle said, elaborating how 62 would prevent all abortions (even in cases of rape and incest) and life-saving procedures on pregnant mothers in hospitals, as well as most (if not all) forms of contraception.
Shelby Knox, a nationally known proponent of comprehensive sex education from Lubbock, Texas, called the amendment an attempt "by extremists to control women's lives."
Aside from Enyart, Amendment 62 supporters including well-known local activist Father Bill Carmody held up signs on the periphery and/or distributed leaflets, all peacefully. Several of the pro-62 attendees actually came up to speakers afterward and apologized for Enyart's behavior. But none of the 62 supporters made any attempt to accost or stifle Enyart.
At the end, when state Sen. John Morse was introduced as the final speaker, Enyart and others with "Yes on 62" signs actually hijacked the rostrum, though the sound amplifier was then turned off.
As Enyart continued his shouts, opponents of 62 began responding with their own chant: "Don't hate women."
As he left without speaking for a meeting in Denver, Morse said, "That's just the kind of wackiness that we're up against. But that's OK."
The anti-62 coalition includes medical-profession groups such as the Colorado Medical Society, religious leaders, attorneys and women's organizations.