We are six stops into our tour around the state on “Beyond Burns: the Growing Patriot Movement in Oregon.” We’ve been to St. Helens, Albany, Eugene, Medford, Grants Pass, and Bend. Each stop has had over 50 participants anxious to dig into the political and economic roots of the Patriot movement, how this movement is recruiting and building their base, and to discuss how we can organize to meet the very real needs of our communities.
Our Grants Pass event was standing room only, with over 60 people filling the room, eager to strategize together. A year and a half ago, Josephine County was the lightening rod of the Patriot movement when armed militants created a roadblock to the Sugar Pine Mine and community members responded. On Monday some of the same people who organized in response to that event, and who put out this signature ad, came back together with new friends to talk about how the Patriot movement has evolved, what they are seeing in their community and how to respond. A key theme was, how can we better organize ourselves to respond to the real needs and crises in our communities?
With our rural economies in tough shape, with continuing cuts to the social services that people need, we have common concerns with folks who might have different political ideologies. We all want to be able to take care of our children, send them to good schools, and to find meaningful work that pays a dignified wage. We all want our rural communities to be healthy and vibrant, where everyone can live their lives with safety and dignity. We all want our neighbors to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.
As we anticipated, this tour of public events has raised alarm within Patriot circles. Several dozen Southern Oregon Patriots joined us in Medford. Last night, about a dozen folks from various paramilitary and Patriot groups were in the room, many asking for the opportunity to talk with us. We are glad that several ROP members engaged in conversation with them and shared a very real truth: how can we have a conversation when threats and intimidation are still coming in? If people are trespassing on our property, vandalizing cars to a point of real danger, making comments online about physically harming ROP organizers or “taking care of them,” how can we possibly begin a conversation on common ground? Can we have a conversation if people are afraid to attend public events in their own town for fear of intimidation or retaliation?
We are now watching some of those Patriot leaders agree: the threats and intimidation tactics need to stop! We cannot say we are building common ground while threatening political opposition!
Of course, there is also inevitable backlash from other Patriots, ranging from petty insults to physical threats and smear campaigns that suggest that ROP is a fascist organization.
Now is a moment that we ask you to stand in solidarity with ROP. Because courageous local human dignity group leaders have spoken out to insist that our rural communities have a diversity of voices, there might now be an opportunity to shift the dialogue. Can we begin to address our common problems, understanding that we will always have differing political ideologies and ways of looking at the world? That’s a question that is facing us all, Patriot or Progressive. For the sake of our children we need to find ways to bring our voices forward effectively. Rural Oregon is losing generations of potential to this 30-year economic and social slide. We are counting on all our friends to share a variety of solutions that address the real needs in our rural communities and develop a path forward with the values of democracy, dignity, and real safety for all at its core.
If you live in or near one of these towns, please join us for the upcoming tour stop. If you know someone in the area, please encourage them to attend.
Canyon City, Grant County
Friday, October 7th at 7PM
Canyon City Community Hall, 123 S Washington St
Baker City, Baker County
Saturday, October 8th at 2PM
Baker City Library, 2400 Resort St
Lostine, Wallowa County
Sunday, October 9th at 4PM
Lostine Church, 132 OR-82
La Grande, Union County
Monday, October 10th at 6PM
Eastern Oregon University’s Huber Auditorium, 102 Badgley Hall, 1 University Blvd