Costilla county residents were pushed down the street after the county commissioner’s meeting on September 15, 2015. The deputies featured in the video repeatedly threatened peaceful citizens on the street with arrest if they did not move down the street and away from the county building in response to a light argument in the crowd. Several citizens, seen in the video, were repeatedly accused of being disorderly, aggressive, and threatening as the excuse given for the aggressive and invasive violation of their First Amendment rights. Undersheriff Espinoza is repeatedly heard threatening the crowd with arrest while another officer can be seen displaying his cuffs.
(angle #2) From this angle, another view can be seen of the aggressive, illegal tactics of the Costilla County Sheriff’s department. In addition, it is alarming that the recent budget proposal for new equipment is essentially “riot gear”. What is Costilla county preparing for?
There is no video evidence that shows any justification for these county officers unethical behavior; pushing these people away from the county building while threatening them with arrest.
Meanwhile, a citizen, Neale Taylor was arrested for something he said to a Costilla County Deputy. Neale was there to attend court with his wife Penny who faced up to 6 month in jail if she was unable to get all her property (including structures) off several plots of land. The backstory to Penny’s court case can be found here and here. He was arrested and released within a hour. Neale said that deputies told him that if anything happened to them, then they would hold him personally responsible and charge him with a felony.
The events shown in these 3 videos takes place 6 days after the community first raised concerns about the new proposed land use codes (without notifying the paper or public).
In that meeting on September 9th, 2015, residents spoke out against several proposed new land use code changes and their effects on their lives. Many argued against how these new rules would impact those members of the community unable to afford the exorbitant upgrades to their homes in the very short amount of time required by the county. This is an increasing issue with the county that has been increasing restrictions for some time. Only recently did it become clear that the local government appear determined to drive new residents away intentionally.
Their very own proposed land use code changes would essentially criminalize those living here in a RV/ Trailer or in other unconventional ‘off the grid’ method for many of the residents in the San Luis Valley. That includes compost toilets, hauling on ones own water, and using solar or wind for basic energy needs. Traditionally, this has been one of the freest places (and most affordable) in all of North America to get away from it all. But as experienced visitors know, it takes a tenacious spirit to ride out the cold, wind, and wild terrain with the nature of the land itself. See video below.
Over 50 residents attended the meeting after they received a flyer from Chloe Everhart notifying them of the planning commission meeting. Other local residents in both the Rio Grande Ranchos and San Luis Valley Ranchos coordinated via Facebook and cellphone to let others in the valley know about these proposed changes. This way the public can have a say on the matter before it goes to vote before the county commissioners.
It has also been brought to our attention that multiple residents in Costilla County have already been told by Code Enforcement Officer Colleen Romeo that RVs are no longer permitted by county on private property. In a recent visit to the permit office located in San Luis, Colorado, Chloe was told by Land Use Administrator Mattew Valdez that “camping permits” (permits necessary to have a RV or trailer on private property) were no longer being issued. Therefore, the situation being created is one where armed code enforcement officers may soon be making quite a few home visits in the high desert. The county may also be planning on hiring new officers for this Fall/Winter.
A resident of San Luis with close ties to the city of San Luis, the town newspaper, and Colleen Romero confronted one of the residents there stating that they should live “like humans, not pigs.”
Since this event, a local article has been published in San Luis’s La Sierra newspaper which demonizes the residents that came to the meeting and accuses them of having violent tendencies. Below are pictures taken of the article written only for the local community of San Luis and not published online or on Facebook for the larger public eye of scrutiny. This article clearly promotes fear of outsiders and long time residents of Costilla County concerned about their property rights.
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