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30 September 2020

Disgraced former GH city councilor fires back

 Some GH residents say they're tired of her lies and bullying

By Brad Smith

GOLD HILL, Ore. – In typical fashion, Gold Hill’s ex-city councilor and self-styled cyberbully Christine Alford took to social media in an attempt to explain her reportedly unhinged behavior at a Dollar General store last week.

According to a number of sources, including city manager Jessica Simpson, a city employee was at the store sometime around 5 p.m. last Friday when they were reportedly accosted by Alford. She accused the employee of stealing more than $60,000 from city funds and, at one point, said she “wanted to kick (their) fucking ass.” The employee never said anything to Alford, who was admonished a number of times by both shoppers and store employees to cease her behavior and not use “harsh language” in the presence of families.

Alford later reportedly called city hall and informed Simpson that the city employee had been the one who verbally assaulted her.

“I spoke with the store manager and the employees,” Simpson said. “All of them told me our employee remained silent the whole time and (Alford) instigated the incident and was asked to leave.”

On a Facebook page administered by her, Alford said the article initial Rogue Free Press “didn’t have all the facts.” She claimed the employee had indeed said some things.

“(They) acted like a snake and was sniveling,” she claimed. “I know what they said.”

However, no one else heard it.

Alford also used her rumormongering Facebook page to attack city councilor Ron Palmer – she claimed that Palmer was, in part, responsible for the missing money.

A local source – who has never worked for the city nor has served on the council or committees – found the accusation “unfounded and a typical Christine deflection.”

“The truth is Christine got caught causing problems and now she’s trying to make herself look good. It’s not the first time she’s done this but it’s one of the few that has been outed in the public,” the source said. “Of course, her little band of supporters will give her pass but the rest of town add this to their list of her stupid blunders.”

They weren’t surprised by the attack on Palmer.

“A few years ago, when (Chris) Stanley was mayor and running the city into the fucking ground, city hall was a shit show,” they said. “More than three or four city recorders resigned or, I think, were fired in a year or so. Everything was fine until a recorder would ask questions about the books – then Stanley and some said (ex-councilor Donna) Silva or Alford made their lives a living hell. They left and Palmer got pissed about it. He spoke out about it and he’s been very vocal about keeping Alford from serving on another committee. If you want a Gold Hill that’s a place for everyone, you need to keep Alford and those other miserable harpies out of City Hall.”

They hoped the city residents will ignore Alford’s “bullying antics and lies.”

“A lot of us hope she’ll leave,” the source said. “At this point, I’ll be happy if a house fell on her, just like Wizard of Oz. That would make a lot of us very happy.”


29 September 2020

DEVELOPING STORY: Former Gold Hill councilor verbally attacks city employee in ‘unhinged’ rant

 Cops investigate missing money as Christine Alford harasses innocent employee in public

By Brad Smith

GOLD HILL, Ore. – A former Gold Hill councilor accused a city employee of theft in a local store last Friday night.

During their Sept. 28 meeting, city councilors and Mayor Pro Tem Brad Studebaker took phone calls during the public comments segment after the meeting started. There were two callers and both had questions about allegations regarding more than $60,000 reportedly taken over the last few years. Both Studebaker and city manager Jessica Simpson said they couldn’t comment on the situation due to an ongoing investigation conducted by law enforcement.

“Yes, there’s an ongoing investigation and beyond that – I can’t tell you much,” Simpson said. “I first learned about it in February of this year. It appears that over a period of time, someone stole over $60,000 from the city. When it was discovered, we contacted the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office then said it would be a conflict of interest for them to investigate us, since we have a contract with them to provide law enforcement. The Sheriff’s office then said they would have the Oregon State Police handle the investigation.

“However, it was turned over to the Medford Police Dept. Since then, we haven’t heard any status updates on the case. They haven’t said anything to me.”

Simpson said the suspect or suspects no longer work for the city.

“As I said before, this happened over the last few years. The truth is that the city hall office was in a serious state of chaos for a while,” Simpson said. “It’s possible that an individual – or individuals – took the opportunity to steal from the city’s coffers."

Which isn’t the case now, she asserted.

“I’ve been keeping an eye on the books and others have been helping me,” Simpson said. “We’re in very good shape now and the people working here now are very good. I trust them.”

However, there was a recent incident involving a city employee and a resident that she had to look into.

One of the callers last Monday night was Christine Alford, a former city councilor and one-time member of the budget committee until she was removed. While Alford portrays herself as a concerned citizen watching out for the community, several in Gold Hill know her better as a rumormongering, hateful person who’s not above launching into personal attacks both in public and online.

The Rogue Free Press received emails about the incident early Tuesday morning and Simpson confirmed the incident happened. The emails were from individuals who reportedly saw what had happened or had firsthand information.

According to Simpson and the emails, at around 5 p.m. last Friday, Alford reportedly confronted the city employee at the local Dollar General store. According to all accounts, Alford accused the employee of stealing the $60,000 – then she wanted (the employee) to go outside with her so she could “kick his fucking ass.”

Simpson heard about the incident from other people. Alford, she said, never called her.

“I called the store and spoke with the manager and the employees,” she said. “They told me that (Alford) had started the entire incident and our employee never said a word and they never did anything to her.”

This isn’t the first time Alford has attacked people in a reportedly vicious manner – she has a history of seemingly unhinged behavior.

In late 2014, West and former city recorder Mary Goddard accused then-city manager Rick Hohnbaum of harassment and inappropriate behavior. During the investigation, Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) Community Development Coordinator Molly Bradley was asked several questions. Her answers went directly against the narrative that Alford pushed for on social media. Irate, Alford went on her group's page and called Bradley “a rat” and made other negative comments about her.

Alford has claimed that she attacked Bradley personally because “she was after the city recorder’s job. She wanted it all for herself.”

However, that wasn’t the case. Once Bradley finished her internship at Gold Hill, she worked some time at Rogue River as city planner/public works assistant, then a planner for Central Point and is now working up in Clackamas County. Evidently, being a city recorder for Gold Hill was never part of her plan.

“That’s behind us now,” Simpson said. “That employee had nothing to do with the money taken and I don’t know why (Alford) did what she did. Frankly, I just want this whole thing resolved and the real culprits punished. Other than that, I have a city to run and people to help.”

Attempts to contact those who sent the emails have not been successful. The article will be updated when new information is available. 

27 September 2020

Hawthorne Park volunteers deny city allegations

Volunteers counter that Tent City was always clean not a mess

By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – While both the city and Medford Police Dept. claim that the few acres of Hawthorne Park occupied by over 100 homeless individuals created a mess – it appears to be a lie.

And the MPD staged photos of a trashed-out park.

Since the MPD’s Sept. 22 sweep through the park – which resulted in a few reporters and a number of volunteers arrested – local media has played up the city’s narrative that the Tent City occupants made a mess at Hawthorne Park. However, according to Randi Vigil, who was one of the Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid group’s media representatives, that wasn’t true.

The MPD Livability Team asserted that human waste and needles were everywhere. Vigil denied that allegation.

“Between the community staying and the community helping, the park was cleaned every day,” they said. “There were people that would come to help in the morning and evening, that would spend time cleaning up, and many days where people staying in the camp would pick up around the community and personal areas. Every single night a houseless member, Mike, would separate all the trash and make sure everything was bagged and prepared nicely for whoever was to pick it up.”

Vigil said there was a chunk of time where the City of Medford had lessened their trash pickup schedule in the area and many members of the community pulled together to do dump runs for Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid. The Way Medford Family Church was a great help in this matter.

The park’s bathrooms and the trash bins were a mess before Tent City opened up, Vigil said.

“Before people started arriving at Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid, the bathroom doors were broken and one of the bathrooms – the one facing the parking lot of Hawthorne Park – was clogged for multiple days before a volunteer fixed it themselves,” Vigil said. “The trash bins were very sparse and thinly dispersed at the beginning. As Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid grew, trash increased but was manageable; there were donations of garbage cans which helped immensely with organization and presentation. The presence of trash should not be an excuse to degrade or trample on human rights.”

According to crime mapping reports, there were little or no incidents reported. Vigil said both volunteers and Tent City inhabitants were able to mitigate incidents as a community through problem solving, de-escalation, and group accountability. Having volunteers awake and available at all times helped provide a sense of security to the camp. The community continuously self-regulated and residents were committed to the longevity of the camp, they added.

“Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid received donations, services, and volunteers from partnering groups, local nonprofits and churches daily,” Vigil said. “However, Officer Mike Wulff and the MPD Livability Team were not helpful.”

The Rogue Free Press was at Tent City the day before the forced evictions happened. The park area was devoid of trash, hypodermic needles and human waste. In fact, Tent City residents were seen cleaning and keeping the area clean.

In short, there was no problem with trash or human waste.

Hours after the MPD made its sweep, sources contacted The Rogue Free Press and reported that MPD officers used confiscated tents and other items to stage photo ops for the press – who were out of sight at a staging area.

“Why do you think that JPR reporter and those volunteers were treated like shit and arrested,” the source said. “(The cops) were afraid they would have caught them in the act. That’s why they went after all of those people. The people at that park worked hard to keep it clean. Sure, who knows what happened in the tents but none of that shit happened in public. The city and the cops wanted to make these people look bad.”

It should be noted that The Rogue Free Press attempted to contact the source for more comments but there was no response.


24 September 2020

Medford cops double down efforts driving homeless out of city

 By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – Homeless and displaced people are on the verge of being cast aside again by Medford and its police department – in particular, by Medford Police dept.’s much-lauded Livability Team.

On Sept. 20, MPD officers rolled through Hawthorne Park’s makeshift tent city, inhabited by over 100 people displaced by the recent fires and handed out eviction notices. They had a week to leave.

For over a week and half, the tent city had been a refuge for those both living along the Bear Creek Greenway and those who had lost their homes. A group of volunteers calling themselves Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid provided food, laundry services and other services for the displaced people. But Medford officials weren’t happy with the situation and eviction notices went out that Sunday.

However, on Monday morning, MPD officers appeared again with eviction notices. They claimed there was a “typo error” and Tent City inhabitants now had 24 hours to leave.

“It’s bullshit,” volunteer Clarence Carr said. “At Hawthorne, these people were safe. They had a safe place to sleep, no worries about being raped or beaten up, we had medics – it was a safe environment.”

Tuesday morning started with cops sweeping through the tent city, threatening volunteers and harassing onlookers. The normally clean Tent City was turned into a chaotic mess and the perfect photo op both the city and MPD needed to push their narrative that the displaced people were creating a hazard at Hawthorne.

JPR reporter April Ehrlich, as well as another reporter and a number of volunteers were taken into custody and held for several hours under what some called inhumane conditions. It should be noted that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is already facing one lawsuit for abusive behavior exhibited by their corrections staff.

As for the Tent City inhabitants, many fled to the Mayette Street area along the Greenway. According to Carr, it’s Bureau of Land Management land and people are allowed to camp, without permits, for up to two weeks. Carr said he not only found many of the hundred or so Tent City campers that had been at Hawthorne, but another 200 or more campers as well. Carr and others started feeding them and helping.

“It’s a large community and we’re talking families, too” he said. “They all bonded together and formed a community and it’s working for them.”

They have to since they have little options elsewhere.

Most of the so-called “alternatives” the MPD Livability Team gave the campers didn’t pan out. Most of the shelters and select campsites are already full. Shelters operated by religious groups require people to sign a contract – which, Carr and others feel, is discriminatory and violates the campers’ rights. Rumors are still going around that the Expo is shutting down soon and there’s very little for people to turn to.

Carr took the issue up with Officer Mike Wulff of the Livability Team. After an exchange lasting several minutes, Wulff reportedly said, “Look, if they can’t find anything here then they have to go elsewhere. Just get out of town and go elsewhere.”

“We got it on video,” Carr said. “That tells me that the city doesn’t give a fuck about these people and they want them out of town. That’s the truth, I feel.”

Wulff and other MPD officers arrived at the Mayette Street location late Thursday afternoon and refused to say what they were doing. Carr and others speculated that the cops would post “No Trespassing” signs and, maybe in the next day or so, go after the campers again.

“It’s fucking sad what this city is doing to these people,” he said. “Some of these people, their families have lived here for years. This is their home. You can’t treat people like that. But that’s been the American way for a long time now, ain’t it?”

23 September 2020


Greg Roberts runs Rogue Weather, a weather information website that's very popular here in the Rogue Valley region. Many like his Facebook page.

Roberts is also a right wing extremist and conspiracy theory hack. The image is of a recent post he made; it's not the first time he's spewed lies and advocated violence againy BLM supporters or alleged "Antifa."

He's also intimidated and threatened people who have challenged him . . . . a trait he shares with -- in my opinion -- another cyberbully and conspiracy crank, Ryan Mallory.

Boycott Rogue Weather. There are other local websites that offer better information and no right wing conspiracy theory woo woo.

And, the people running those websites are far better human beings.


21 September 2020

Hawthorne Park's tent city faces eviction, some organize resistance

CHP director blasts bizarre rants and conspiracy theories 

By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – After several days of rising tensions, a slew of wild allegations and conspiracy theories, campers harassed and intimidated, threats from alt-right groups and more displaced people showing up, the Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid (HPMA) Group is under siege.

Since the Almeda Fire blasted its way through the Rogue Valley and devastated parts of Ashland as well as laying waste to both Talent and Phoenix, scores of displaced people descended upon a section of the 20-acre park. In the past, a group called the Compassion Highway Project has helped transients and others who frequented the park. Since the fires, the all-volunteer Hawthorne Park Mutual Aid stepped up and started helping a growing tent city of displaced people – some lost there their homes and others were camped along the Bear Creek Greenway.

CHP executive director Melissa Mayne first claimed that a donation meant for her organization was taken by the HPMA. Then, Mayne got upset that Black Lives Matter signs were scattered throughout the tent city.

Mayne then took to social media and issued a bizarre, seemingly unhinged rant in which she claimed Antifa groups were bussing people from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and other places – for some nefarious scheme. She also claimed that she had received threats from unknown individuals.

Meantime, alt-right individuals such as minor radio personality Bill Meyer, and Greg Roberts, who runs and has been known to threaten violence against BLM protesters, have perpetuated conspiracy theories that Antifa arsonists have infiltrated the region.

Meantime, the tent city has grown and the HPMA volunteers have been providing people with meals, medical aid, laundry facilities and, basically, a safe place to stay.

Clarence Carr said, despite claims to the contrary, some of the displaced people did lose homes.

“Sure, some of them lost places to live,” he said. “Others lost their camps along the Greenway. No matter what, they lost something and deserve some help and basic human compassion. Just because they don’t have a house, then they don’t count. That’s bullshit.”

Sometime Sunday morning, Sept 20, Medford Police Dept. officers went through the park and handed out orange sheets of paper – eviction notices that gave the campers a week’s notice to leave. As Carr and others attempted to rally support, MPD officers dropped another bombshell early Monday morning, Sept 21.

Officers again swept through the tent city, this time handing out new eviction orders that gave campers 24 hours to vacate Hawthorne Park. One reason MPD officers gave for the sudden change was a “typographical error.” Then, officers stated that “due to unsanitary conditions,” the evictions had to be ramped up.

“It’s fucked up,” Carr said. “These people are here because they have no where else to go. And, this whole thing with (Mayne) is nonsense too. No one here has taken a single thing away from her CHP. Not one fucking thing. No food, no clothes and especially no cash. That hasn’t happened.”

While Mayne, the MPD and a number of Facebook commenters have claimed the tent city campers never lost homes in the fire, that isn’t true. One man calling himself Bryant had been living close to the Rogue Valley Manor when the fires hit.

“I was renting a room from friends,” he said. “We were told to leave, and we did. I threw what I could in my car and left. It wasn’t much but I lost things important to me when that happened. I heard people were coming here and I wanted to check it out. I have a place to sleep, food, and I can get my clothes cleaned. Not many places offer that.”

Carr said that things have been calm at the tent city.

“If someone has a problem with someone else, they work it out,” he said. “We’ve been lucky, but I think folks here know they’re safer here than being on the streets somewhere.”

Early Monday night, MPD released this statement:

Today, our Livability Team conducted a resource fair in an effort to connect individuals in Hawthorne Park with services, and provide information regarding available shelters throughout the Rogue Valley.

Participating agencies included Jackson County Mental Health, Rogue Retreat (Kelly Shelter, Hope Village, Urban Campground), Men’s and Women’s Gospel Mission, and La Clinica.

Transportation was offered and utilized by individuals at the park throughout the day to local shelter locations and La Clinica.

Hawthorne Park resource connections made:

•34 people connected with Rogue Retreat.

•2 people were taken to the Expo.

•36 people were contacted and eligible to go to Rogue Retreat but did not accept the services.

The current health and sanitary conditions of Hawthorne Park warrant an immediate closure of the unauthorized urban campground. A public notice of illegal camping was posted throughout the park today to notify individuals they must vacate the area no later than tomorrow, Tuesday, September 22.

When asked about the 8 a.m. Sept. 22 eviction deadline, Carr said he wasn’t going.

“If we have to make a stand, we’ll do it here,” he said. “Here’s the reality: Most of these people would still be here even if the HPMA wasn’t around. They come here anyway. It happens. They’re here in this part of the park because there’s not a playground. They keep to themselves here. Right now, they can get some food, help and other things. That makes a difference.”

Carr said that if some of the campers are arrested Tuesday morning, they’d be released later on and, eventually, find their way back to the park.

“That’s how it’s going to play out,” he said. “If the city doesn’t like it, then, they’d better step up with a real plan to help these people rather than some token touchy feely piss poor PR stunt.”

 The Rogue Free Press attempted to contact Melissa Mayne and discuss the bizarre claims she has made.

Ms. Maynes never responded.

19 September 2020

D.A. refuses to prosecute assault case, victim made to look like the aggressor

Brad Smith

Assault victim raises questions about D.A.'s decision


Pictured here is Amanda Rose's assailant, William Henry Morgan. This picture was taken by Rose after Morgan shoved her twice and hit her in the face with a flagpole.

JACKSON COUNTY, Ore. -- The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office will not be pursuing charges in the Aug. 29 assault that happened during the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equality (SOEquity) rally held in Rogue River.

Deputy DA Kelly Hager was assigned to the case. In a press release issued on Sept. 18, the D.A.’s Office said: 

“After thorough review of the evidence collected by the Rogue River Police Department concerning an altercation in Rogue River at a Black Lives Matter rally on Aug. 29, 2020, no criminal charges for Harassment ORS 166.065 and/or Assault in the Fourth Degree ORS 163.160 will be filed. There is insufficient evidence to support proof beyond a reasonable doubt William Morgan intended to harass or annoy Amanda Rose when he pushed her away from him, or that he recklessly caused her physical injury.

“On Aug. 29, 2020, there was a Black Lives Matter rally in Rogue River as well as a counter-protest. Rogue River Police Chief Curtis Whipple and multiple other officers were working during the event and had their body cameras on. William Morgan was standing on the side of Broadway Street with his wife and friend. Amanda Rose came and stood next to him with her arm held high and her hand in a fist. They stood this way for some time. At one point, Amanda Rose leaned closer to William Morgan and yelled "Black Lives Matter!" When Ms. Rose yelled, she was less than a foot away from Mr. Morgan. Mr. Morgan shoved Ms. Rose away with his forearm, Ms. Rose stepped towards Mr. Morgan again and yelled "Black Lives Matter!" Mr. Morgan shoved Ms. Rose away with his forearm a second time. At this point Chief Whipple and Officer Brent Miller of the Rogue River Police Department intervened and split up the parties. 

“This incident was recorded by Chief Whipple and Officer Miller's body worn cameras. After extensive review from both sources, the District Attorney's Office determined the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt Mr. Morgan was intending to harass or annoy Ms. Rose when he shoved her. Instead, the evidence showed Mr. Morgan appeared to be responding to Ms. Rose being in his personal space and yelling in his face. It is also clear any injury resulting from that shove to the shoulder does not meet the legal definition of physical injury in that it did not cause substantial pain or impair Ms. Rose's physical condition. Mr. Morgan's actions do not rise to the level of criminal conduct.”

 The press release was promptly picked up by local media outlets – which they ran without contacting either parties. Rose was angered by the press release’s tone.

 “To me, the press release reads as a defense of (Morgan’s) assault on me,” she said. “Whipple's video that I watched showed the part where I had moved forward. I'm guessing the other video shows what you interpret as me ‘leaning in’ to yell in his face? And all this misses when he hit me in the mouth with his fist holding his flagpole?

“It seems like there was a push to frame the incident as him just pushing me but never once was it brought up that he had hit me in the mouth – even though that's the report I gave,” she said. “Why is this all missing? It's not subjective. It happened. In the video, Whipple even approaches Morgan after he takes my report then tells him that I have a bloody mouth. Whipple told (Morgan) he’s going to have to leave or he'll be arrested. Again, why is this missing from the D.A.’s press release and their decision?”

Rose had been at the rally for nearly an hour when Morgan attacked her. As the SOEquity event started, Rose said the counter protesters -- a mix of both local and out of town instigators and white nationalists -- were ramping up their rhetoric.

“It was bad. There was a lot of yelling and screaming. People drove pickups and motorcycles up and down the street,” she said. “It was getting heated. I stood between counter protesters and Clarence Carr, who was visibly upset and was being harassed by the cops. I did that as the cops surrounded him. There was an older man with a flagpole was right there. He was very upset. An older man. Like I said, he was very angry.”

She felt a deescalation was necessary. She placed herself between Carr and the counter protesters – including a woman accompanying Morgan.

“I just wanted to keep the peace and calm down the situation,” Rose said. “I’ve done it before -- so I put my body between him and them. (Carr) was terribly upset.”

As Rose stood between Carr and the counter protesters, the crowd chanted “Black lives matter!” She held up a fist and said the same thing. That’s when Morgan got angrier, she claimed.

“‘Put your fucking fist down, you fucking piece of shit’ – that’s what he said to me,” Rose recalled. Morgan shoved her twice and then hit her in the mouth with the flagpole.

Whipple and other police officers were nearby, Rose said.

“I said, ‘Can any of you do anything?’ and they moved me away from the street,” she said. “Whipple gave me a case number and I asked if they could have him leave.”

Whipple never offered her medical aid.

“He took pictures of my face and didn’t say a lot,” she said. “My lips were bruised and swollen. He seemed brusque and distant. All the cops acted like that.”

Rose said she kept seeing her alleged assailant during the rest of the protest. “I took a couple of pictures of him,” she said. “He really got angry when I did that.”

Rose has been frustrated with Whipple – along with her husband.

“He’s called Whipple three or four times -- no response. My kids ask me if the police are ever going to do anything,” she said. “I don't know what to do.”

Rose’s husband was assured by an RRPD employee that Whipple received all the messages but apparently didn’t have the time to return them, she said.

But Whipple did have the time to appear on a TV news segment and talk about the rally. As one former Rogue River resident said about the news segment, “It was classic Whipple: ‘You know we were really prepared and I think it went as well as it could. Pat me on the back please.’ Curtis thrives on praise.”

SOEquity president Kayla Marie Wade posted this on her Facebook account after the D.A.’s decision was released:

I guarantee you if it were the other way around. If a “patriot” was screaming in one of our protestor's face (and likely screaming much more violent and threatening things than simply stating the fact that "Black Lives Matter"), and one of our protestors shoved them out of the way, charges would have been pressed. That's all I have to say for now.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

With the resurgence of racial and social injustice, it looks more like the 1950s.

The Rogue Free Press attempted to contact William Morgan but was unable to do so.


17 September 2020

Facebook scanner groups and alt-right conspiracy theorists push hoaxes, misinformation

Despite statements from both local and federal law enforcement, social media's lunatic fringe rant and rave

By Brad Smith

ASHLAND, Ore. – No – Antifa “domestic terrorists” aren’t behind the Almeda Drive Fire or the other fires in the region.

The rumors started on early Sept. 9, the day after the fires started. Many took to social media, claiming that “Antifa” were setting the devastating fires and some had even been ARRESTED. Their source for that information?

Facebook scanner groups.

Yes. Scanner groups. If one wants to spread hoaxes and misinformation, Facebook scanner groups are the perfect place for that sort of thing. It wasn’t long before people were repeating fake scanner group postings about Antifa arsonists and, making things worse, someone created a post mimicking a Medford Police Dept. press release: It was about some Antifa arrested for arson.

MPD later released a statement on social media and debunked the post.

It hasn’t been easy for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, either.

According to public information officer Mike Moran, the JCSO has been hit with a tsunami of calls and emails from a concerned public. The Rogue Free Press asked if there was any evidence linking Antifa or other extremists to the fires. Moran responded with this email:

We have had so many totally groundless reports of the fires being connected to extremist groups. It is a ridiculous fabrication that is causing extra work for people and is causing undue anxiety and concerns for citizens.


Every day there is some totally made up meme or un-attributed headline posted on social media by someone that has no firsthand knowledge of anything to do with the investigations.


If there were such info it would be posted on legitimate government sites. There is no evidence of this to answer your question.


Along with the JCSO and MPD, the FBI even issued a press release saying that they saw no evidence linking Antifa to the fires. Beth Ann Steele, of the Bureau’s Portland office, said in a statement:

FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon. With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue. Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away from local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control. Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.

However, despite the numerous statements from both local and federal law enforcement agencies, there are still some people in denial that cling to their hoaxes and debunked conspiracy theory rants. It has gotten so bad that armed vigilantes have setup roadblocks and checkpoints, threatening innocent drivers. In one incident that happened last week in Clackamas, alt-right vigilantes stopped an Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter and told them to leave immediately.

There has been one alleged arsonist arrested. Michael Jarrold Bakkela, 41, a transient, was arrested on Sept. 8 after a Phoenix resident called 911, reporting that a man set a fire behind their Quail Lane residence. Bakkela had a Sept. 14 court appearance and entered a not guilty plea. He is currently held at the Jackson County Jail, charged with first-degree arson and multiple counts of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. His bail has been set at $5 million.

Bakkela’s criminal record includes unlawful use of a motor vehicle, drug possession, felony possession of a weapon and other charges. However, he had no history of arson and again, no evidence of an Antifa affiliation. Local alt-right demagogue Bill Meyer said (Bakkela) was one of those “Anarchist Cookbook types” – but offered no other evidence.

A number of people have been arrested for looting, but none have links to extremist groups.

Meantime, groups nominally accused of being Antifa or “violent” BLM supporters can be found at Medford’s Hawthorne Park, feeding the homeless and those recently displaced by the fires. They prepare and serve meals, provide those in need with essential supplies and help people.

That’s a stark contrast to paranoid and delusional alt-right vigilantes running illegal roadblocks and intimidating innocent people.

11 September 2020

Fire Rumors And Conspiracy Theories Push By White Nationalists And Other Alt-Right

 An upcoming article will focus on the rumors and conspiracy theories alt-right extremists are spreading about the fires. Here in Southern Oregon -- well, the entire state -- law enforcement agencies are busy debunking claims that Antifa and "BLM groups" are behind the recent fires devastating Oregon and elsewhere.

It's not true.

More to follow . . . .

03 September 2020

On The Front Lines Of AmeriKKKa: The Fight For Justice -- Part One

SOEquity holds its own against local white nationalists

This is a first in a series of articles about the fight for both racial and social justice here in Southern Oregon

One of the many white nationalists who attempted to shut down the SOEquity protest last Saturday.

By Brad Smith

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. -- A group of peaceful protestors were met with local white nationalists last Saturday in Rogue River -- and despite threats of violence from the latter, the protesters walked away with some victories.

Originally, the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity (SOEquity) had planned a march from Rogue River’s city hall to Palmerton Park, followed by a family-friendly barbecue. You Are Enough, the event’s name, was meant to be a place where people could  talk about their experiences with racism. SOEquity vice president Dominique Toyer said neither actions didn’t require permits and were protected by the First Amendment right to peacefully assemble.

“The City of Rogue River reached out to SOEquity requesting that we apply for permits for this event regardless,” a SOEquity press release stated. “As our primary goal is education and we have no desire to provoke conflict, we agreed to fill out the permits and pay the corresponding fees. Despite this good faith effort, the City of Rogue River denied our park reservation request and parade permit stating that the Palmerton Park Pavilion had already been reserved and that they did not have the manpower to allow for us to march in the streets. They requested that we stay on the sidewalks and added that we were still welcome to gather in another area of Palmerton Park. We agreed to abide by these requests.”

It turned out a group calling themselves the “Rogue River Patriots” had filed for permits to use the park pavilion. On Aug. 20, Chas Elliot of the patriot group made the necessary payments and deposits and signed for the permit. He refused to speak with The Rogue Free Press.

The Rogue River Patriots had a Facebook page up but it has now been taken down. On it, member William Yoakum posted, “Is there a bag limit and size limit BLM.” The group’s administrator Jinny Neiswanger said, “People who don’t belong squeeze in . . . . They get removed just as quickly.”

For all of Neiswanger's rants about "outsiders" coming to Rogue River and causing problems -- Yoakum is from California. It's not known if he was removed from the group, since Neiswanger refused to answer simple questions or provide evidence for her outlandish claims of "terrorist activity."

Another screenshot from the group read:


Neiswanger denied any sort of collusion and said, “We did not have contact with our police. These were notes copied from another group from another area. Our PD asked us to keep it peaceful.”

Neiswanger said she didn’t know which group the notes were copied from.

“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet,” RRPD Chief Curtis Whipple said. “Nothing like that happened.”

After some head-butting with the Rogue River city leaders, SOEquity reached out to the Evans Valley Community Center. There was an agreement for SOEquity to hold their cookout at the community center -- however, that deal was called off, due to threats received by the EVCC.

“I just wanted ‘You Are Enough’ to be a cookout and a community gathering,” Toyer said. “There were a lot of lies and misconceptions out there about us. And, we were there because some people asked for our help. I just wanted to have some good food, share stories from biracial kids and enjoy music.

“That’s all we wanted.”

Instead, local social media exploded into a toxic waste of threats, wild claims of rioting and looting and calls from so-called “patriots,” i.e., white nationalists, to “defend the city."

Despite being shut out from both the park and the EVCC, Toyer and the rest of SOEquity were determined to do something.

“We decided to have a protest,” Toyer said. “No matter what, our voices would be heard.”


Amanda Rose, along with her doula partner Jen Hook, worked in the Rogue River area for over three years. She had been following the story about the planned “You Are Enough” event and decided to attend the rally.

“I wanted to be there and show my support,” she said.

Rose said she arrived around 9:45 a.m. Saturday. People were gathering on both sides -- the ones with guns made her nervous.

The sight of Confederate battle flags and other racist symbols didn't help, either.

“I knew there would be some armed counter protesters. I’ve dealt with them at other rallies,” she said. “It just seemed different, a different energy from these people.”

Rose soon found herself standing by an older woman, who was a counter protester. Rose smiled and asked how the woman was doing.

“How much are you getting paid to be here?” the woman asked. A common myth among the alt-right is that protesters are paid by George Soros, the alt-right’s bogeyman.

Rose smiled but didn’t say a thing.

“I figured it’d be a crazy day,” she said.

More than an hour after arriving, Rose found herself assaulted by a counter protester as she was standing between Clarence Carr, a fellow protester, and a crowd of angry white nationalists. She was given a case number from Whipple and watched on as he didn’t ask her alleged assailant to leave.

As of press time Thursday, Whipple hasn’t returned her husband’s calls about the supposed investigation. He did, however, have enough time for a TV interview and talk about how well his department was prepared for the protest.

Taking a lone assault suspect, however, was still apparently problematic. A Grants Pass police officer would later tell Rose that arresting suspects could have "caused issues" for law enforcement.


The SOEquity protesters and the white nationalists were in a heated exchange of words as the day went on.

None of the SOEquity protesters were armed -- the same couldn’t be said for the white nationalists across the street.

Many of the counter protesters were armed with pistols, assault rifles and shotguns. Some even had tactical vests and body armor. Rose claimed there was another group of armed militants standing apart from the main group of white nationalists.

“One of them said they were there to ‘keep the peace,” she said. “There was one thing that struck me as being odd: They kept making fun of the counter protesters in front of the community center. It seemed like they weren’t impressed by (the counter protesters).”

While the SOEquity protesters were unarmed, someone armed with a rifle did join them for a brief time. A young man wearing a black cowboy hat and hooded sweatshirt, he called himself “Sam.” Armed with a semi auto rifle, one of the protesters said “Sam” was there because “he didn’t like cops.”

“He just came over and talked with some folks. His rifle made some of the older protesters nervous but he was friendly enough. Didn't stay long,” a protester said. “He struck me as more just a kid who wanted to see what the commotion was or have an excuse to open carry than particularly ideologically motivated.”

Emily Mann, a SOEquity member and social media manager, reported that there were several instances of white nationalists rushing across the street and challenging protesters.

“Cops and our own deescalation teams would jump in and send them back to the main group,” she said. “We kept our people from engaging -- from the very beginning, we meant to be peaceful and we kept it that way.”

Not so much with the white nationalists.

As Toyer and others tried to speak, revving motorcycle engines would drown them out.

Mann said the racial slurs were “horrible.”

The slurs can be heard on several video  feeds from the protests:

“Get the fuck out of our town, n---ers!”

“Go back to fucking Africa!”

“Black Lives Splatter!”

Neiswanger claimed there is a video of a SOEquity protester making threats. When asked to produce the video, she couldn’t and said “it’s on the Internet.”

To date, no such video has appeared.

A number of counter protesters waved signs with white supremacist and anti-Semitic messages. Steven Essig, a protester who was videoing on livestream, walked over to the other side.

“It was pretty easy,” he said. “I had my mask on and kept my head down. What I saw was disturbing.”

Essig’s footage shows a counter protester flashing two signs -- Whites built the West #whitelivesmatter and 78% of American slave owners were ethnic Jews -- and others around him cheered and clapped.

“They were fine with the signs, their messages,” he said. “No one told him to stop or to go away. I was horrified. Disgusted.”

However, not all Rogue River residents were rude and violent to the SOEquity protesters.

Toyer said that she and her group met with a number of residents who were “very happy” SOEquity was there.

“We talked, they asked us questions, we laughed and sang ‘This Land is Your Land,’” she said. “I even told them jokes and stories about my dad. They asked us to come back and some even gave us donations.  It was a truly important, uplifting moment for us. Yes. We’ll be coming back.”

Sometime after 2 p.m., police had both the SOEquity people and the white nationalists leave. Videos have been posted of a touring bus being escorted out of Rogue River by both sheriff’s deputies and Medford Police Dept. officers -- followed by civilian bikers.

SOEquity’s president, Kayla Marie Wade, put this post on their Facebook page: 

“. . . . We held a nonviolent protest in front of Rogue River City Hall after countless, organized efforts to suppress and silence a family-friendly barbecue for people of color were successful. When we arrived at City Hall, the opposite side of the street was already lined with a group of people who were angry and showed it.

“They were yelling obscenities, holding signs with white supremacist messages, revving their motorcycle engines in a direct attempt to drown out our message of equality and acceptance. We stood our ground and reminded OUR community that we were not there to fight. We were not there to engage with the hate being thrown at us. It was difficult. Because we are angry too. We’re just not allowed to show it.

For four hours, I watched multiple members of this so-called “patriot” group walk across the street to try to start a physical altercation. They yelled direct threats of violence to me and my fellow Black leaders when we spoke. I cried multiple times. At one point I just folded over and screamed at the sidewalk in frustration. But, I never screamed at them.

“I am proud that our supporters were able to maintain a semblance of peace. After the event, one of the Grants Pass police officers who was on duty due to the threat of violence against our group came up and thanked me, saying it was clear who the instigators were today. I hope the rest of the officers, who seemed a lot more indifferent to the clear messages of hate being spewed at our group, felt the same way.

A lot of good came out of yesterday’s event. We received an outpour of positive messages online and monetary donations that will allow for us to better serve our community as we move forward. Many Rogue River residents came up to personally thank me for organizing the event, saying they are glad a stand against hate was finally being made in their town. At the end of the event, a woman of color who lives in Rogue River stayed to introduce herself to me. She was thankful we took the time to help residents who look like her feel a little less alone. That final moment made it all worth it to me.”

However, on Sunday morning, the EVCC was reportedly vandalized -- and more upheaval followed.

To be continued.

Emily Mann also contributed to the article. Thank you very much for the information you provided.

Please watch at the 13:00 mark.

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