“If you don’t vote or you vote for a Democrat, you’re voting for communism,” Rep. Paul Gosar told members of the Gila County Republican Party gathered in Rumsey Park on a windy Monday.
He said Democratic resistance to the Trump administration has bred a culture of lawless anarchy that lies behind the Black Lives Matter demonstrations as well as efforts to tear down or force the removal of statues, mostly tributes to Confederate generals but also an 1876 Washington, D.C. statue showing a slave kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln.
“Can anybody believe we’re talking about anarchy in our country right now?” he asked.
Gosar, who wore a mask until he spoke, also called the state or city orders mandating business closures or the wearing of masks in public as “an experiment in socialism — the government telling you what to do and when to do it.”
He added that “capitalism allows me to be the person I want to be. (The U.S. has) the lowest amount of poor people and people not being fed in the world because of the goodness of this country … Nobody is perfect, but this country is as close as you can get.”
The gathering drew a relatively small audience, most of whom wore masks and avoided crowding together in the windy, outdoor venue.
A host of elected officials showed up, including State Sen. Sylvia Allen, State House candidate Brenda Barton, Gila County Supervisor Tim Humphrey, supervisor candidate Hallie Overman-Jackman, Payson mayor candidate Jennifer Smith, Payson council candidates Barbara Underwood and Jolynn Schinstock, Star Valley Councilor Andy McKinney, Payson Councilor Jim Ferris, Arizona Corporation Commission write-in candidate Jim O’Conner, Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd and others.
Gosar’s Republican primary opponent, Anne Marie Ward, did not attend, but hosted her own event in Payson last week. A conservative businesswoman and middle school math teacher, she has called Gosar “totally out of touch” with voters in the district.
One audience member asked, “can you tell us what’s going on behind the scenes that we’re not hearing about dealing with the insurrectionists and the sheep who follow them?”
Gosar noted that he has talked to the U.S. attorney general about seizing the assets of protest organizers by applying the federal laws that allow for seizure of cars, cash, even homes of people accused of links to organized crime and drug trafficking. He said groups like antifa, which supports Black Lives Matter demonstrations, amount to terrorist organizations.
A loosely organized national network, ANTIFA opposes White Supremacy and fascism, with some of its members advocating violence.
“We need to get to the people funding them,” and seize their assets, said Gosar.
At one point, he offered an account of efforts to protect the Emancipation statue, which showed a slave kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln. He said National Guard commanders proposed protecting the statue by deploying unarmed National Guard troops. So Gosar said he got involved with a group that proposed sending a group of armed citizens to protect the statute and the unarmed troops. The plan never came to fruition and demonstrators did not pull down the statue, which is now protected by a fence and barricades.
“We’re playing for real marbles now,” said Gosar. “You may not like the statues, but there’s a process for removing them.”
Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey rose to urge stronger support for the right to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Without the Second Amendment, none of the other rights are guaranteed,” said Morrissey. He urged Gosar to stiffen Arizona Sen. Martha McSally’s opposition to any restrictions on gun ownership, saying her Democratic senate opponent — former astronaut and fighter pilot Mark Kelly — is a “gun grabber.”
Kelly has advocated for gun restrictions like a ban on automatic assault rifles and universal registration of gun sales ever since an assassination attempt on his wife, then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. A gunman shot Giffords in the head and killed six people and wounded 12 others in front of a Tucson supermarket in 2011.
Gosar agreed the Second Amendment is critical. “I want to protect my family. That’s my God-given right. You’ll take my gun away from my dead, dying hand.”
Gila County Supervisor Tim Humphrey then rose to plead for Gosar’s help in convincing the Forest Service to spend more money on maintaining roads in rural Gila County. He said the 185,000-acre Bush Fire destroyed grazing land for many ranches in the Tonto Basin. Moreover, erosion from the denuded slopes will quickly fill up all the culverts in the region’s many dirt roads and then wash out the roads.
“The Forest Service isn’t going to do anything,” said Humphrey. “Highway 188 has a million culverts and they’re all going to wash out. I’m here today asking for help.”
“We can’t allow them to tell us no,” responded Gosar. “Let’s get our voices together.”
“But they’ll tell us ‘no,’” grumbled Humphrey.
Another listener asked what Congress can do to prevent social media platforms from censoring the speech on Twitter or Facebook or other platforms. She said the censorship would determine “whether we’re going to have a country or not going to have a country.”
Facebook and Twitter have taken a more aggressive stance on trying to shut down the dissemination of hate speech or inflammatory conspiracy theories, like the unfounded allegation that cultural and political elites including Hillary Clinton were part of a child sex trafficking ring operated out of a pizza parlor. When President Trump Tweeted “when the looting starts the shooting starts,” Twitter put a comment on the Tweet saying it glorified violence.
The administration has retaliated by threatening to revoke a federal policy that provides social media businesses broad immunity from lawsuits on the theory they’re platforms, not publications. This means Facebook and Twitter and others can post material that would be libelous or an invasion of privacy if written in a newspaper.
Gosar said consumers should sign up for various levels of filtering when they sign up for social media — including no filter at all.
He said his social media posts are being “censored all the time ... We’re the ones who said (accused sex predator Jeffrey) Epstein didn’t hang himself (in jail).”
He said nothing less than the survival of the country is at stake.
“The other side (Democrats) is tearing the family apart. We’ve got to get people out” to vote, he said, surveying the mostly empty Rumsey Park ramada. “How many people should have been here today?” he asked.
“Everyone,” called someone from the audience.