Opinion | Susan Knopf: Give me space

Susan Knopf

“Hello, my name is Susan Knopf. I write a progressive column for the Summit Daily News. I’d like to ask you about your sign.”

The young man was defensive and commanded me to step back. The crowd seemed to have pushed him to the edge. His dog was lying on the ground. I saw dog vomit at its feet. The man was waving a sign that said “F— the police.”

I identified myself again. After the third time, he heard me, and so did the crowd, now moving in on both of us. Repeatedly, he asked them to stand back. I turned and told a man, “I’m in my 60s. Please keep your distance!” He said, “So what! I’m 70, and I’m wearing a mask.” Finally, as they kept pressing closer, and the young man continued to ask them to maintain their distance, I turned and I screamed as loud as I could over the noise of the passing traffic. “Get back! I don’t feel safe!” Then they started chanting loudly: “Karen! Karen! Karen!”

To be fair, all of these people were at least my age, and I suspect many were in their 70s. Nonetheless, standing there on the Colorado Highway 9 median across the street from the Mint Steakhouse in Silverthorne, I felt threatened. I know it sounds lame. But these people were closing in and shouting. Cars and trucks were passing and honking horns. It was auditory overload. I started to take pictures with my phone. One man waved American flags and signs in my face. Then an unidentified man strode up to me, grabbed my phone and walked away.

As he snatched my phone, he loudly said, “It’s illegal to take pictures of people.” The young man I was trying to interview with the provocative sign videotaped the encounter. I was shaken and tried to leave the scene to contact police. The man who snatched my phone strode quickly away, then he returned my phone before I could cross the busy highway.

I know this may sound lame also, but it was all very disturbing to me. I haven’t touched a stranger since March. So when he grabbed my hand and my phone, I was shocked, not just to have my property taken, but to have a complete stranger grab me. 

The video of the incident was turned over to Silverthorne police. The man has not been identified.

As I ponder the experience, it occurs to me both the trembling young man with the offensive “F— the police” sign and the angry retirees with the “Defend the police” signs have a lot in common. Both are really angry and wound up. Both were acting irrationally, pushed to their limits and grabbing at straws.

I wasn’t able to have much of a conversation with the young man with the provocative sign. Between the shouts of the retirees, I grasped a couple of things. He said he thinks law enforcement does a pretty good job in Summit County. I shared with him Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons’ innovative SMART program, in which mental health clinicians ride with deputies to answer community calls.

Later, Silverthorne police officer Anne Baldwin let me know this man had been flipping the bird and saying inflammatory things to her for weeks.

I heard someone on the radio say, “It can be dangerous to dip a toe in the political water these days.” You’re not kidding. I told the friend who invited me to check out the demonstration that I will not be accepting any more of his invitations unless its for drinks and appetizers.

The demonstration was intended to show support for the police. I don’t believe these wound-up, angry, right-wingers made anybody feel supported. For certain, they made more work for Silverthorne police. I can say it’s the first time in many years that I felt physically threatened.

So what are they so wound up about? QAnon for one. 9News’ Kyle Clark summed it up: “QAnon is the unfounded conspiracy theory that President Trump is fighting a secret war against cannibalistic Democratic pedophiles who drink the blood of children.” That’s not a joke. Check out Pizzagate.

According to Media Matters, more than 70 QAnon promoting candidates are running for Congress. Trump endorses Georgia Republican QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene. In Colorado, Republican candidate Lauren Boebert is a QAnon supporter according to multiple news sites. Boebert says she will “annihilate socialism.” For the record, Medicare, Social Security, public schools, libraries, parks, and fire and police departments are all socialistic programs funded by taxpayers. Putting aside her rhetoric, she apparently thinks she’s running against NYC Congresswoman AOC. That should give you an idea of how ill-informed and misguided this candidate is.

I was encouraged by the Democratic National Convention. The comments of ordinary people and political leaders demonstrated America can once again find its sanity and character. I was particularly persuaded by career Republicans, like former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who spoke in support of Joe Biden. All concurred. It’s time to quell insane conspiracy theories and elect a candidate who accepts science, can work across the aisle and can solve real American problems. All agreed a vote for Biden-Harris is a vote to save America from the divisive hostility that has plagued our country the past four years.

Susan Knopf’s column “For the Record” publishes biweekly on Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at

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