Update: Later on Tuesday, Gov. Polis suggested he wouldn’t extend his statewide executive moratorium on evictions.
“I am the grim reaper, and I am here at the Capitol to commend the state legislators for doing absolutely nothing to keep people in their homes,” Mariah Wood, who was cloaked in black, said on Tuesday morning, “so that evictions can spike and death and disease can rampage throughout the city of Denver.”
This was the message behind the Denver Democratic Socialists’ display in front of the State House, a call to action twisted through sarcasm.
Wood said she and her costumed colleagues would like to see the state’s eviction moratorium extended through June and beyond. They fear that people who have been unable to work from home, who have had a hard time paying rents and mortgages, will be “tossed out on the streets.” This, Wood said, would cast people into homelessness who never experienced this hardship before.
Though businesses have begun to open up, she said low-wage workers haven’t had enough time to rebound.
“People making minimum wage just aren’t going to be able to come up with that amount of money, so that means that people are going to be evicted from their homes,” she said. “It’s very clear that Denver and Colorado don’t care about working people, which is great for grim reapers, right?”
State legislators returned to work on Tuesday, just hours before Wood and company arrived on Lincoln Street. Support for the unemployed was one item floated in the House’s first hours of business after weeks in recess, and it’s possible evictions will also be addressed by week’s end.
Meanwhile, $175 billion in federal rent and mortgage relief contained in the “HEROES” Act has stalled in Congress.
Of course, not all voters are on board with the socialists’ strategy.
On the hill above the grim reaper parade, a different group of protesters gathered, waiting their turn to hold signs on Lincoln, reading: “you can’t be pro life and pro vaccine” and “open Colorado.”
Andie Smith said she works as a server in the west side of the metro area, though she was hesitant to get more specific. She said the pandemic is a “boogeyman virus,” and any attempt to keep people from returning to work will result in larger problems.
“If you’re scared, stay home. If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. You cant enforce your will on other people. Our freedom does not end where their fear begins,” she said. “They want their rent paid. Where’s that money coming from? Taxpayers.”
Smith said business may have a hard time opening since some workers can collect more money through unemployment than they can at work and that fear of the virus may keep people from venturing out at all. This, she said, is couched in the belief that the novel coronavirus has a “99.98 percent survivability rate.” Johns Hopkins University statistics say the mortality rate for COVID-19 is about 6 percent.
Smith would like to see the state open up completely. If it does, she said, things would return to normal.
“We have to open up and see what happens. I do believe that the silent majority wants to see things opened up, just like the silent majority is going to vote for President Trump again,” she said.
One woman from the “open Colorado” protest wandered down to the reapers to ask what they were all about.
“It sounds like your socialists, yes or no?”
“I don’t think death is socialist,” a reaper replied. “Death comes for everybody.”
“Yes it does,” she said. “Just give me a straight answer, dude. Take the mask off.”
“Absolutely not. This is important in my line of work,” he told her. “I gotta cover up my face bones.”
An hour later, the woman and her fellow maskless protesters had taken the place of the reapers, getting their own honks from passing cars.