PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO)-- A group of 30-40 protestors gathered outside the Pueblo County Courthouse Tuesday evening to protest a lighting ceremony held for health care workers.
The Facebook group "Pueblo Stands up" organized the protest. In the protest invitation, they say, "The audacity and self satisfaction of this ploy is disgusting to many of us who have lost jobs due to the mandates they have helped force onto we the people."
Pueblo County Government did not comment on the protest. Instead, officials told KRDO they wanted the history of the annual lighting ceremony to be remembered.
"I think it is interesting now twenty years later we are using this event to help bring the community together again during the pandemic," Pueblo County Public Information Officer, Adam Uhernik, said.
This is the 20th anniversary of the Pueblo County lighting ceremony. This year the ceremony was dedicated to the sacrifice that first responders and health care workers have made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"On the health care side of it, the nurses and the doctors that went into work every day to help patients. Not only those that were experiencing COVID-19 but other patients as well that had other conditions at that time," Uhernik said.
Tuesday, the lighting ceremony included the largest firework show in the history of the event. Fireworks were synchronized with music and went off without a hitch.
While the ceremony honored health care workers, protestors demanded officials acknowledge the health care workers who were let go after refusing to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
In early November, 56 employees were terminated from Parkview Medical Center for refusing to get the vaccine. The vaccine requirement for health care workers was handed down by the state, not Pueblo County.
During the protest, organizers invited Colorado Governor hopeful Danielle Neuschwanger to speak to the crowd.
"Medical freedoms is something I have been very passionate about. I am also one hundred percent informed consent, so I am not anti-vaccine or pro-vaccine," Neuschwanger said.
The Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners can issue proclamations against the state mandate, but that would be largely symbolic, without the power to change the mandate. Neuschwanger wants the employees, who were terminated, voices to be heard.
"It is a slap in the face to them and so for them to come out and honor first responders. I think we should always honor our first responders but put your money where your mouth is and really step up," Neuschwanger said.
Pueblo Police told KRDO they deployed additional resources to the lighting ceremony out of caution. The protest remained peaceful.