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As heightened restrictions on businesses and gatherings are enacted within the state, a group of citizens and business owners came together Monday to voice their concerns and seek answers from elected officials.

Approximately 75 people attended the Stand Together United event hosted by the Kittitas County People’s Coalition Monday, gathering in front of the Kittitas County Courthouse to listen to speakers and voice their frustrations with the new restrictions.

Kittitas County People’s Coalition organizer Jessica Karraker said the element that both surprised and humbled her was the number of new faces she saw in the crowd at Monday’s gathering.

“I think it’s in part of them being curious to see what we’ve done and what we’re about as a coalition,” she said. “They’ve been watching us from the shadows, and they stepped into the light. It’s inspiring to see business owners who are going to shut down because of this rollback show up to listen.”

Karraker said Kittitas County Commissioner Laura Osiadacz made remarks at the gathering, and Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel made an unplanned stop to address the crowd as he was entering the courthouse. She said in her knowledge, Kittitas County is the only county that has seen peaceful organized gatherings of residents that have engaged with elected officials in the manner that Monday’s event was held.

“I don’t see county commissioners in other parts of the state coming out and standing in the pouring rain addressing their constituents that are frustrated,” she said. “I don’t see other counties making bold and honest press releases like our county is. They’re doing it judiciously, and they are working within what has been given to them as far as what’s legal and what’s not legal. I have to applaud our local elected officials that have come out and taken the opportunity to speak to us.”

Although she said participation of county-level elected officials has been positive, Karraker said she encourages all elected officials within the county to engage with their constituents and show support for their concerns related to the current situation.

“It’s going to take the support of every elected department, and not just at the county level but also in our 13th Legislative District,” she said.

SYMBOL OF SUPPORT

A petition was circulated both at the gathering and through social media by the coalition seeking signatures to support action at the county level in regards to the heightened restrictions.

“We, the undersigned eligible voters of Kittitas County, petition all elected officials in Kittitas County to support and rectify a Resolution to declare the United States and Washington State Constitution as the Supreme law of Kittitas County,” the petition reads. “That no proclamation, emergency declaration, and/or Governor order can or will be enforced in Kittitas County that directly violates the People’s Constitutionality protected Rights under the Supreme Law of the land.”

Although she said the coalition has been working on other projects behind the scenes to help keep the county open, Karraker said the petition was created in direct response to the new restrictions.

“There’s 27 reasons in the Declaration of Independence of why we sought independence from Great Britain,” she said. “The slogan that’s known for kicking off the revolution was the shot heard around the world. That was referenced during the rally in more of a light-hearted sense to not being as extreme as to what that means, but the fact that the people’s voice in Kittitas County is going to be heard around the state. We’re at the point where we want to be the county that’s working with local elected representatives and officials to regain local control.”

Karraker said the constitutional element that concerns her the most regarding the restrictions handed down by the state is the concept of equality under law.

“That’s the big part right now is that businesses are not being treated equal,” she said. “There’s no equality there. Some are being deemed as an unsafe place to go. Meanwhile, others are totally fine. What we’re asking for more or less in this position is to show the support of the voters.”

Karraker said she understands that taking on the stance the petition addresses places a heavy legal burden on county-level officials and could possibly result in lawsuits at the state level.

“Selah was threatened quite a bit this last spring when they did the same thing, however nothing ended up resulting in any lawsuits or fines to the mayor down there,” she said. “While it would be amazing if the commissioners did write a resolution in support of being a constitutional county and making a very forward declaration like that, the goal behind the petition and the coalition is just to show that they have the support needed to make the tough call. Leadership is about making the tough calls in unprecedented and unheard of times, and that’s where true leadership is going to be displayed.”

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