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Showing posts with label BLM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BLM. Show all posts

03 December 2020

Vigil held for Ellison, FBI now involved


 By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. – Over 200 people gathered at the Jackson County Courthouse for a Wednesday vigil for Aidan Ellison, a young Black man who was shot in Ashland on Nov. 23.

Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity (SOEquity) the Rogue Action Center and other local racial/social groups helped put the vigil together. Kayla Wade, SOEquity’s founder, was among the speakers.

“We’re here because a white man thought that a young Black kid just expressing himself and listening to music and decompressing was unacceptable and needed to be dealt with,” she said. “We’re here because every person of color, every Black person in this community, has experienced something like that: Having a white person decide that how we’re living our lives is unacceptable and that we need to tone it down or need to be silenced. If we want to live in a world where we can exist with dignity, something has to change.”

As previously reported, on Nov. 23, Keegan allegedly shot and killed Ellison. The victim was reportedly in the Ashland's Stratford Inn parking lot and listening to music. Cops said that Keegan was not happy about the loud music and – armed with a concealed handgun – went outside to confront Ellison. An argument ensued and Ellison was shot. Keegan was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm (Keegan didn't have a concealed weapon permit) and recklessly endangering another person. 

Court records added a few details to the incident. Keegan was reportedly awakened by loud music this happened at around 4 a.m. He told police that he got dressed, put the gun in his jacket pocket, and went to the front desk. An employee then went out to the parking lot and spoke with Ellison. As they were talked, Keegan went outside and then confronted the young man. That is how the argument started.

Keegan claimed that Ellison hit him in the face a number of times. However, the autopsy indicated that Ellison’s hands lacked bruising or marks consistent with a physical assault. And Keegan’s face wasn’t bruised or marked.

Keegan is still being held at the Jackson County and no bail has been set. His next court date is Feb. 22, 2021.

Ellison’s death sparked outrage throughout the Southern Oregon area and ire at some local media outlets. CBS affiliate KTVL 10 went into detail about Keegan’s alleged plight as someone displaced by September’s Almeda Fire while very little was said about the victim. Meantime, Ellison’s family, living in Klamath Falls, have been targeted by harassment from local white supremacists and even some law enforcement, Clarence Carr claimed.

“It’s been very hard for them and they’re getting by,” he said. “It’s a day by day thing. No one should have to go through this shit.”

A number of people from the BIPOC community spoke during the vigil, sharing their experiences with racism here in the Rogue Valley. As Carr noted, many came here hoping they could avoid it.

“But no matter what, it’s here and we need to do something about it.”

As some local media outlets published articles about the vigil on social media, racism did rear its ugly head from time to time. It got so bad that in one case, KTVL banned “Elijah Rebel Kruis” for promoting hate speech, they said. Kruis’ Facebook page is adorned with Confederate flags and far-right posts. Others, like William Meehan, Jr. and  Ronald King, blamed Ellison for playing “crap rap music” too loud and said the victim was being “disrespectful.” In short, they victim shamed.

It was reported that Keegan didn’t have a criminal record but a restraining order was filed by his ex-wife a number of years ago. She also alleged that both she and her son – whom Keegan had custody of – were victims of his emotional and physical abuse.

On Thursday, Chief Tighe O’Meara, Ashland Police Dept., issued the following press release:

 

In reference to the murder of Aidan Ellison, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with the Ashland Police Department to assess whether there are any potential violations of federal laws.

While, at this time, this has not been substantiated, under state or federal law, to have been a bias crime, it is important to examine all aspects of this case and determine whether a bias crime has been committed.

Anyone with information pertinent to this case is encouraged to contact the Ashland Police Department.

The Ashland Police Department is grateful for the FBI’s engagement on this case.

An anonymous source, a former law enforcement officer, said they were glad to see the FBI aiding with the investigation.

“According to Oregon law, a hate crime happens when somebody intentionally uses offensive physical contact, threatens physical injury or threatens to cause damage to the property of another person because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin,” they said. “Did that happen? Not that we know of, so far. We do have at least one witness and maybe some security camera footage – but if there is video footage, how good is the audio? What did the witness hear or see that would indicate this was racially motivated? Those factors have to be taken into consideration. As to how long it will take – it’s hard to say. They have a lot of work ahead of them.”

01 December 2020

UPDATE: Autopsy shuts down Keegan's self defense claims


Accused murderer Robert Keegan claims self-defense but evidence says otherwise. Photo courtesy of the Jackson Co. Sheriff's Office.

By Brad Smith

ASHLAND, Ore. – Accused murderer Robert Paul Keegan claimed that a 19-year-old Black man punched him in the face and that he acted in self-defense by shooting him.

According to an unsealed probable cause affidavit, Keegan told Ashland police officers after Aidan Ellison supposedly hit him, he took a few steps back, drew his 9mm semiauto pistol then “racked a round and shot (Ellison) in the chest.”

However, the medical examiner’s findings dispute Keegan’s claim.

Court records show that the autopsy found the victim had no injuries on his hands consistent with physical assault – and Keegan himself lacked visible signs of being punched in the face.

As previously reported, on Nov. 23, Keegan allegedly shot and killed Ellison. The victim was reportedly in the Ashland's Stratford Inn parking lot and listening to music. Cops said that Keegan was not happy about the loud music and – armed with a concealed handgun – went outside to confront Ellison. An argument ensued and Ellison was shot. Keegan was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm (Keegan didn't have a concealed weapon permit) and recklessly endangering another person. 

Court records added a few details to the incident. Keegan was reportedly awakened by loud music this happened at around 4 a.m. He told police that he got dressed, put the gun in his jacket pocket, and went to the front desk. An employee then went out to the parking lot and spoke with Ellison. As they were talked, Keegan went outside and then confronted the young man. That is how the argument started.

Thirty minutes later, Ellison was dead.

Keegan appeared in court last Friday and pleaded not guilty to the four charges. As of press time, he’s still lodged at the Jackson County Jail and no bond has been posted. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2021.

 Local media outlets reported that Keegan didn’t have a criminal record – however, in 2012, his then-wife Amy Jo Hoppins filed a restraining order against him when they lived in Coos County. Hoppins claimed that Keegan was both physically and emotionally abusive to her and their son. Fearing for her safety, Hoppins has gone into hiding and is attempting to regain custody of her son. She told The Rogue Free Press that she was still receiving threats from Keegan over the past year.

 A former law enforcement officer said they were “concerned” by Keegan’s account.

 “’Racked a round?’ That’s something you find in badly written private eye stories or other macho pulp crap novels,” they said. “It’s my opinion – my opinion, mind you – that Keegan was the aggressor here. He was looking for a confrontation. It sounds like the motel employee was doing their job and (Keegan) made things worse. Just another macho fuckup with a gun and a bad attitude.”

Local racial and social justice groups have already held vigils for Ellison and more are planned throughout the week.


 

26 November 2020

Accused killer's ex remembers 'the monster' who terrorized her


 

Robert Keegan – Courtesy JCSO

By Brad Smith

ASHLAND, Ore – Some people aren’t shocked by Robert Paul “Bob” Keegan’s arrest after he allegedly shot a young Black man on Nov. 23.

His ex-wife Amy Jo Hoppins is one of them.

While a GoFundMe account in Keegan’s name proclaims that he’s a kind and loving man, a good father – Hoppins and others say otherwise.

“Bob’s a violent man. Violent, manipulative, abusive and cruel,” she said. “Everyday I was with him, I felt threatened. I was strangled, suffocated and hit. I lost count the number of times he threatened to shoot me. He even drugged me from time to time. And, even worse, was how abusive he was to my son. One time, he even lit a torch and threatened to burn my home. Yes, he’s that crazed. He was a monster.”

A son that Keegan had custody of at the time of the shooting. Keegan and his son were staying at the Stratford Inn after claiming he’d lost his home during the Almeda Fire. While media reports stated Keegan was from Talent, Hoppins said her ex’s last known address was on the 300 block of Kent Street in Ashland.

At around 4:20 a.m. Monday, Keegan, allegedly shot and killed a young Black man named Aidan Ellison, 19, Ashland. Ellison was reportedly in the Ashland's Stratford Inn parking lot and listening to music. Cops said that Keegan was not happy about the loud music and -- armed with a concealed handgun -- went outside to confront Ellison. An argument ensued and Ellison was shot. Keegan was taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm (Keegan didn't have a concealed weapon permit) and recklessly endangering another person. As of press time, Keegan is in the county jail and held without bond.

While it has been reported that Keegan didn’t have a criminal record, Hoppins stated that in 2012 she got a restraining order against him when they lived in Coos County. However, she claimed that Keegan routinely violated the restraining order and the physical and emotional abuse continued.

“He’d force his way into my home and take my phone and car keys,” she said. “And, when I did make a report – nothing was done. Bob had a way of convincing people that he was the good guy. He’s still good at it.”

One anonymous source claimed they knew both Hoppins and Keegan when they were together.

“Amy was always terrified,” they said. “Not only of Keegan but his goddamned family. Some of them threatened her on a number of occasions and she didn’t know what to do.”

Hoppins said in January 2015 Keegan left with her son. She has been waging a fight to get custody of her son and, ever since, the threats have continued.

“At one point, my lawyer said it was a good idea to leave,” she said. “So, I did. I’m in another part of the country and I’m still afraid. My son, when we do talk, has told me about Bob and his family talking about what they want to do to me. Yes, I’m scared as hell.”

The anonymous source said it was possible that Keegan supposedly had his records expunged – explaining why nothing is on record.

“He’s just the sort of slime who would do that,” they said.

Hoppins said she’s contacted the Ashland Police Dept. and told them about her past with Keegan. She has also doubled down on her efforts to get custody of her son.

“I don’t think he’s safe with (Keegan’s) family,” she said. “They’re just as bad as he is. He needs to be somewhere safe from them.”

Hoppins said Keegan might have a bail hearing next month and that bothers her.

“I’m worried that he will come after me next,” she said. “Bob thinks he’ll get away with murdering this young man and he’ll be emboldened after this. I worry about what he might do to my son. He’s that dangerous.”

Hoppins said she “grieves” over Ellison’s death.

“He’s dead and my ex is responsible for it,” she said. “I’m so sorry for his family and friends and I wish I could do something for them. That young man didn’t deserve that. And his loved ones don’t deserve this pain and suffering now. No one does. I want them to know that they’re in my heart and prayers. I just wish I could do something for them.”

She hopes Ellison’s loved ones will find justice.

“I hope they lock up (Keegan) for life,” she said. “I hope the investigation will reveal other things about him and what he’s done. What he did to Aidan – that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m certain of it. That’s why I’m hiding from him and his family.”


27 August 2020

'You Are Enough' event goes forward despite racist Rogue River residents

SOEquity changed plans after threats from RR racists 


By Brad Smith


ROGUE RIVER, Ore. -- The location of Saturday's ‘You Are Enough’ event has been changed due to concerns over safety.


Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equality (SOEquity) vice-president Dominique Toyer said the Aug. 29 march and event was meant to promote racial justice and equity. The plan was to have participants meet at the Rogue River city hall offices on Broadway Street around 10 a.m. The plan was to have the march move through town and finish at Palmerton Park, she said.


“From the very beginning, it was planned to be peaceful and focusing on how racism affects children and young people of color in rural towns,” Toyer said. “After the march, we planned for a barbeque and an open mic available for anyone wanting to share their experiences. A family-friendly event shedding light on racism in smaller towns. The reality is that small, rural towns often have less diversity than bigger cities and racism is prevalent.”


Earlier this month, Toyer addressed the Rogue River city council about the issue of racism in their community.


Rogue River does have a problem. For example:

  • Joe McPherson is a business owner, The Double R Pub. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, McPherson has made a number of racial slurs such as “Kung Flu” or the “Asian Flu” on social media. He doubles down when confronted and others -- mainly Rogue River residents -- have defended him and repeated the very same slurs. Most echoed terms used by Trump.

  • During a 2016 9/11 ceremony held by VFW Post 4116, now deceased member Chuck Spark said that if anyone took a knee during the event, there would be “trouble.” Especially if they acted like that "Black SOB Colin Kaepernick." During a conversation with Mark Poling -- VFW member and city councilor -- Kaepernick’s name was mentioned. Another VFW member overheard the conversation and said, “Kaepernick -- where’s the goddamned KKK when you need them the most?” Poling said nothing and laughed.

  • *Diane Hawkins (name has been changed) said she was invited to have dinner with friends at the VFW. “This was when President Obama was in office. People were repeatedly saying the N-word, others talked about lynching (Obama) like they did to Blacks a long time ago and said a cross should be burned on the White House lawn. It was disgusting. I’ve never been back there. Filthy bigots.”

  • Michael Vieira, a Rogue River resident, made social media comments on how no one is allowed to criticize “the Zionist Jews” and people like Mel Gibson have to apologize or else never work again.

  • During a Rogue River planning commission meeting years ago, someone preparing a PowerPoint turned on her laptop and there was an image of her son on it, next to his bike. A Japanese motorcycle. One of the commissioners said, “Get rid of that goddamned Jap rice rocket.” Most laughed but no one rebuked the commissioner.

  • For many years, a Rogue River church used its ad space in the Rogue River Press to run anti-Islamic diatribes. The congregation members never complained about the adverts nor did the readers. They continued until the pastor died.

Rogue River has a serious problem.


Which became evident as news of “You Are Enough” hit local social media. Residents like Steve Elyes and Emil Merusi railed that there would be “burning and looting.” Merusi joked about hitting people with a pickup and “healthcare worker” Penny Tolman posted an “All Lives Splatter” picture. Brian Campbell threatened in posts about showing up with weapons and wanted others to join him.


“I’m making potato salad and marinade for the meat. This is a family friendly event, it’s not some armed invasion. This is very frustrating,” Toyer said during a Facebook video post. “What the hell is wrong with some people? This is something for everyone and it's peaceful. That's all it is.”

 

Toyer said the city was very helpful throughout the permitting process. However, when Toyer and others dropped off the paperwork, they learned that others had rented areas of the park needed for the event.

 

“We decided to give it a try, staying at Palmerton,” she said. “But, the threats were still posting all across Facebook. Everyone in my group was bringing food. These assholes were bringing guns and threatening us. But, lately, that’s been the case.”

 

Medford. Coos Bay. Cave Junction. Medford again. Peaceful protesters have been met with hostility from right-wing extremists, so-called “patriots.” “Patriots” who stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with violent neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers such as Keith "Biome Michael" Erickson and Greg Marchese. It would seem that Southern Oregon's “patriots” are fine with neo-Nazis among their ranks.

 

That’s Trump's America. He said the right wing extremists in Charlottesville were very fine people -- even when one of them killed an innocent woman. Trump urged right wing extremists to “take back their states” after a number of governors initiated lockdown protocols when he failed to take action during the Covid-19 pandemic. He also used racist slurs regarding the virus -- something that local business owner Joe McPherson and other residents have done on social media.

 

And, they think it’s funny.

 

People in Rogue River are, well, brazenly racist and stupid about this event.

 

The local newspaper, The Rogue River Press, did an article on the event. An Amy Blair responded with this bizarre rant:


Ok I have a problem with your soequity article you say "she said that all of the people involved in the rally are from southern oregon, and none of will have a connection to either activities associated with Black Lives Matter in Portland or a rally in cave junction " if you visit their webpage they clearly tout themselves as Black Lives Matter.. it's on their homepage and they provide a white reading list... seems to me that this article makes it appear that this group has no ties to the BLM when clearly they do.


I'm just letting you know that your source provided you misleading information. Clearly on their page they are in support for the group. I'll be talking to our local police today to find out what their plans are as cities have been burned in the name if this group. I agree they are welcome to march or whatever because we are a welcoming community. But they shouldn't be providing misleading information regarding their affiliation. Smh.


As SOEquity prepares to move the event to another Rogue River location, Toyer said she’s not surprised nor disappointed.


“All those threats and other nasty comments we’ve received this past week -- it proved my point,” she said. “Rogue River has a serious racism problem and we’re continuing our work, opening dialogues with Southern Oregon communities. Educating. Forging an understanding between everyone. The racists in Rogue River haven’t stopped us. Not one bit.”


19 August 2020

POV: This Is What Rogue River Residents Should Do

One of the best anonymous comments regarding the initial Rogue River article.
This.
No threats. No yelling and screaming. No guns. To put it succinctly: No macho shit.
Just do this. Everyone learns from it and is a winner.

"The answer to the question in the title, is No. The community of Rogue River is not racist and should not be defined by the ignorance or bigotry of some members of the community.

"Why? For the same reason supporters of the Black Lives Matter organization should not all be labeled "Marxists". There certainly are Marxist people in that organization and some of the charter beliefs are Marxist philosophy.

"But the vast majority of people who support BLM want racial equality and trust in policing. They are not supporters of Marxist beliefs. And that is good, because Marxism has caused the deaths and incarceration of MILLIONS of human beings over the last 100 years.

"Rogue River, like most communities can benefit from more engagement and listening. Goodwill and understanding can be fostered if people get to know each other as human beings and not rivals.

"So go attend that BBQ and do not counter protest. Just engage and enjoy each others humanity."

18 August 2020

You Are Enough Rally Set For Rogue River Aug. 29

 Organizers hope to open a dialogue, understanding

By Brad Smith

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. -- A special rally is planned for Aug. 29, including a march, a BBQ and some entertainment -- an event aimed at raising awareness of racial dynamics in Rogue River.

“We call it 'You Are Enough,’” said event organizer Dominique Toyer. “It’s a peaceful, family friendly  event with the goals of opening a dialogue with the community and promoting an understanding. There are people in Rogue River who feel there's a problem with racism. They see it, they've experienced it. They want to talk about it, again, with the hopes of making the community aware of the problem.”

Toyer is part of the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity, located here in southern Oregon. She was active in the BLM rallies held in June and has participated in events held elsewhere in Oregon, most recently in Coos Bay. She appeared at a Rogue River city council workshop a few weeks ago and talked about racism in the community.

“I know it made some of the councilors uncomfortable. It’s not an easy thing to discuss nor to acknowledge,” she said. “But, if you ignore the problem -- it’s not going away. It’ll fester and get worse. No one wants to think that something bad happens in their town. But, unfortunately, it does happen and you need to face it, talk about it.”

Mayor Wayne Stuart and city administrator Mark Reagles both felt Toyer was “very brave” for coming to the meeting and discussing the issue. However, neither agreed that there was a problem.

“We’re a very diverse community, we don’t have a problem with racism here,” Stuart said, “I don't think it’s an issue.”

Rogue River isn’t that diverse -- not with nearly 94 percent of residents white and the rest made up of various other races. And, when looking at local social media posts, many residents feel that anyone associated with the BLM movement is a “Marxist” or “terrorist.” A number of current and former residents contacted the The Rogue Free Press and shared their experiences with racism in Rogue River. The local VFW and some businesses were noted as some of the biggest offenders.

In short, there’s a problem.

“The best way to address something like this is by opening a dialogue,” Toyer said. “That’s our goal. Dialogue. Awareness. Share an understanding. All of that leads to a better community.”

Toyer said at 10 a.m. Aug. 29, there would be a march through town followed by a barbeque at Palmerton Park. People will speak about their experiences being biracial and some entertainment is planned.”

“I hope people will come out and join us,” she said. “It’s going to be a good time.”

Toyer said brochures about the event will be distributed throughout Rogue River sometime this week or so. In the meantime, other events are planned throughout the Rogue Valley and beyond.

“I want a better world for my son,” she said. “I want a better world for all children. That’s why we do this.”

Saturday, Aug. 29, will be a defining moment for Rogue River. It will be interesting to see how some residents will react.

Toyer is a member of the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity. It's been corrected and The Rogue Free Press apologizes for the mistake.


17 August 2020

Biggs Faces Hate Crime Charges

By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. -- A man who thought he would violently disrupt the June Black Lives Matter rallies have gotten more than he bargained for.

During the June 1 BLM rally, Christopher Ryan Biggs, 38, White City, allegedly drove his truck into a crowd of BLM protesters -- which got him hit with a hate crime. Now, the Jackson County DA’s Office has filed additional charges against Biggs, particularly using his truck as a weapon.

Biggs already faces first-degree crime bias -- a felony charge -- as the DA’s Office alleges he purposely placed others in “fear of imminent serious physical injury” because of his “perception of the race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation” of the alleged victims, court records say.

According to the DA’s Office, it’s alleged that Biggs was “motivated by prejudice” as he sped up his black Dodge Ram pickup and drove into some BLM protesters. Deputy DA Michael Cohen filed the charges in Jackson County Circuit Court on Aug. 12.

According to an affidavit filed by the Medford Police Dept., at around 4:30 p.m. June 1, MPD officers reportedly saw Biggs’ Dodge pickup approach BLM protesters, who were located at East Main Street and North Central Avenue. The officers reported Biggs’ pickup was moving at a “high rate of speed” as it drove into the crowd. The officers also reported protesters screamed and the truck did hit one person, who sustained minor injuries.

According to court records, MPD officers reviewed a number of videos. They felt it wasn’t safe for Biggs to drive the way he did.

Biggs, on his part, has claimed he was downtown looking for his daughter after her vehicle was allegedly swarmed by protesters. He also alleged protesters struck his truck and tried to climb inside.

However, MPD officers found no video footage supporting Biggs’ claim. And, one MPD officer reportedly heard Biggs scream “Fucking queers” at protesters before the alleged incident. Biggs said someone in another truck shouted the slur but one MPD officer said they heard (Biggs) yell the slur.

On social media, supposedly staunch Blue Lives Matter supporters were angered by the MPD officers’ statements and were questioning “Back the Blue.”

Biggs’ next court appearance is set for Oct. 12. As of press time, Biggs has refused a court appointed public defender and said he would act as his own defense.

According to court records, in the past Biggs has been arrested for fourth-degree assault, harassment, some traffic offenses and procuring alcohol for a minor.


13 August 2020

Is Rogue River Racist?


A BLM activist asks Rogue River leaders to address racism, Aug. 29 march and BBQ planned

======================


Note: An asterisk (*) denotes someone interviewed but requested their identity kept confidential out of personal concerns. The Rogue Free Press does work with vetted confidential and anonymous sources.


By

Brad Smith


ROGUE RIVER, Ore. -- A member of Southern Oregon’s Black Lives Matter organization and Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity appeared before the Rogue River city council during their Aug. 6 workshop meeting.


Dominique Toyer said she went to the meeting to discuss “racial issues” that she feels exist in their community.


“Over a period of time, we’ve seen that some towns might be oblivious to the possible racism that exists,” she said. “Most often, it’s there to some degree. Talking about it makes some uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. But, it needs to be discussed.”


According to both Wikipedia and the official website, BLM is a decentralized movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against Black people. While Black Lives Matter can primarily be understood as a decentralized social movement, an organization known simply as Black Lives Matter exists as a decentralized network with about 16 chapters in the United States and Canada. The broader movement and its related organizations typically advocate against police violence towards black people, as well as for various other policy changes considered to be related to black liberation.


In July 2013, the movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier, in February 2012. The movement became nationally recognized for street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown—resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, a city near St. Louis—and Eric Garner in New York City. Since the Ferguson protests, participants in the movement have demonstrated against the deaths of numerous other African Americans by police actions or while in police custody. In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter activists became involved in the 2016 United States presidential election. The originators of the hashtag and call to action, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, expanded their project into a national network of over 30 local chapters between 2014 and 2016. The overall Black Lives Matter movement is a decentralized network of activists with no formal hierarchy.


Not surprisingly, BLM has gained a number of detractors since its inception more than seven years ago -- some calling the movement “Marxist” in nature. However, the independent nonpartisan fact checking website PolitiFact found the claim to be more complex than some think.


Toyer emailed her PowerPoint presentation the morning of the meeting.


“Most places, they have a laptop to use and so on,” she said. “When I got there -- well, nothing. So, when I had the chance to speak, I had to wing it.”


Toyer gave Mayor Wayne Stuart and the councilors an example of how American history has been whitewashed over the years. She told them the story about Phillis Wheatley, a slave who became the first African-American author of a book of poetry.


“Back then, many people didn’t think that a Black slave was capable of writing poetry,” she said. “In 1772, Phillis had to defend herself in a Boston court -- John Erving, Reverend Charles Chauncey, John Hancock, Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts, and his lieutenant governor Andrew Oliver -- were there. The court finally sided with Phillis. That's something that's not covered in our history but should be."


Toyer knew she was going over her time limit but wanted to give another example.


A more personal one.


Toyer's grandmother works for White City VA offices. A few years ago, a vindictive domiciliary resident called 911 and reported that she was seen driving under the influence -- she wasn't. After getting home, Toyer's grandmother was drinking some wine when officers from the Medford Police Dept. showed up and arrested her for DUII. The case went to trial and all charges were dismissed.


“I was using this as an example of systemic racism and profiling. Even law enforcement overreach,” she said. “That’s when a police officer tried to explain why it was done that way. That’s when I said he -- or any law enforcement officer -- shouldn't use their badges for bullying.


“That’s when it got quiet and everyone seemed very uncomfortable.”


City administrator Mark Reagles said Chief Curtis Whipple was at the meeting and had spoken up.


“I really didn’t get the gist of what was said,” he explained.


Toyer thanked Stuart and the councilors for their time -- then left.


“I want to go back,” she said. “I plan on going back at some point. I want to continue the dialogue with Rogue River.”


Reagles said Toyer certainly left an impression on the councilors.


“Someone commented that (Toyer) was very brave for coming and talking about this,”  he said.


Reagles disagrees with the idea that Rogue River has problems with racism.


“I’ve lived here for a long time and I haven’t seen any racism. No problems. Rogue River doesn’t have problems like that,” he said.


Unfortunately, he is wrong.


According to the 2010 census, the racial makeup of the city was 93.3 percent White, 0.8 percent African American, 1.2 percent Native American, 0.4 percent Asian, 2.1 percent from other races and 2.2 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.3 percent of the population.


A very white community.


One with racial issues. For example:


  • Joe McPherson is a business owner, The Double R Pub. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, McPherson has made a number of racial slurs such as “Kung Flu” or the “Asian Flu” on social media. He doubles down when confronted and others -- mainly Rogue River residents -- have defended him and repeated the very same slurs. Most echoed terms used by Trump.

  • During a 2016 9/11 ceremony held by VFW Post 4116, now deceased member Chuck Spark said that if anyone took a knee during the event, there would be “trouble.” Especially, if that acted like that "Black SOB Colin Kaepernick." During a conversation with Mark Poling -- VFW member and city councilor -- Kaepernick’s name was mentioned. Another VFW member overheard the conversation and said, “Kaepernick -- where’s the goddamned KKK when you need them the most?” Poling said nothing and laughed.

  • *Diane Hawkins said she was invited to have dinner with friends at the VFW. “This was when President Obama was in office. People were repeatedly saying the N-word, others talked about lynching (Obama) like they did to Blacks a long time ago and said a cross should be burned on the White House lawn. It was disgusting. I’ve never been back there. Filthy bigots.”

  • Sherry Prudhon, VFW Auxiliary president, routinely made comments to the press about immigrants and refugees being a drain on America and taking away resources from veterans.

  • Michael Vieira, a Rogue River resident, made social media comments on how no one is allowed to criticize “the Zionist Jews” and people like Mel Gibson have to apologize or else never work again.

  • *Sutter Kane, who has spent a number of years chronicling the activities of area white supremacists and right wing extremists, said Earl Shamblin, Rogue River’s former police chief who died earlier this year, was very racist. Family members and close friends, known as the “Shamblin Mafia,” made it known they would make a Black person’s life “miserable” if they ever got “uppity” or “forgot their place.” Another former police chief, Ken Lewis, was overheard making anti Islamic comments, derogatory comments about the LGBTQ community and other minority groups. To Lewis' credit, however, he did clean up the Rogue River Police Dept., Kane said. "He got rid of Shamblin's friends, who were just as bad as Earl. From that point on, Shamblin had it out for Lewis."

  • During a Rogue River planning commission meeting, someone preparing a PowerPoint turned on her laptop and there was an image of her son on it, next to his bike. A Japanese motorcycle. One of the commissioners said, “Get rid of that goddamned Jap rice rocket.” Most laughed but no one rebuked the commissioner.

  • For many years, a Rogue River church used its ad space in the Rogue River Press to run anti-Islamic diatribes. The congregation members never complained nor did the readers.

Yes.


Rogue River has a problem.


It’s not known if and when the community will ever admit to it.


Mayor Wayne Stuart contacted me early Friday morning, on speakerphone with Reagles. He said Toyer contacted him and asked to appear before the council.


"I was curious about what she had to present," he said. "So, I agreed to have her on the agenda -- and felt it was important enough to have her speak for about 25 minutes or so. It was a very interesting presentation and eye opening. I'm glad she reached out to us."


Like Reagles, Stuart felt there wasn't a problem with racism in Rogue River. Having lived in the community for many years, he said he's never seen it.


"However, if someone feels that there's a problem, they should approach the council and tell us about it," he said.


I posted the initial story to the Rogue River Oregon Facebook group. Many reacted with hostility and said there was no racism. One man even said that since Mexican restaurants are very popular in Rogue River, that was a sign of no racism existing in the community.


Yes.


That's what he said.


However, a number of people did talk about their experiences with racism. A few talked about how racism was a reason why they left Rogue River and would never come back. One person talked about the time when a POC family moved into the neighborhood . . . and had neighbors talk about wanting to get rid of the family because they didn't belong. Some talked about negative experiences at the VFW post and some local businesses.


From one reader:


I was riding around Rogue River with a friend one day, this man gave me that dirty look of disgust. My friends reply was, “There are Mexicans in Oregon, chill out he’s not being racist.” Privileged. My favorite Italian restaurant in Southern Oregon is Paisano’s. I appreciate the people that work there and obviously enjoy their dishes. But walking in there is always something that I would have to worry about. I would just have to put my blinders on and ignore the racial slurs and stereotypes. My problems of being tanned year round in a white ass town 🙄 Patti’s Kitchen in Gold Hill, yikes! Love their biscuits and gravy but definitely not the ambiance. A family was bothered because there was a wait and I was occupying a small booth to myself. I uncomfortably picked up and left after her obvious remarks then she proudly says, “That’s right, you should know better”. Are the majority of Oregonians racist? Hell yes! And you ask why I’m pissed off.


Most, when they came forward with their stories and experiences, were met with scorn, name-calling, accused of lying or told to move.


And, of course, threats of violence.


It's understandable why some people don't want to believe racism and other societal ills exist in their community. Some don't want to think that their family and friends would ever embrace racist views. A small town like Rogue River is almost a utopia, devoid of big city problems. Some just don't want to accept the fact that racism and the like exist. They don't want to think ill of their hometown.


While some honestly are, well, naive in their umwelt -- there are those who are quite fine with embracing racism and hatred. It's happening in Rogue River. Gold Hill. Wimer. Phoenix. Talent. It happens everywhere.


Dominique Toyer did a commendable thing by reaching out to the Rogue River leadership and Stuart did something positive by willing to hear her out. That's how a dialogue is started and, hopefully, an understanding is eventually reached. One can only hope it'll happen in Rogue River.


However, judging by comments made by some Rogue River residents, they don't want a dialogue -- let alone an understanding. No, they're comfortable with the lies spread about the BLM movement and spreading false information about those killed because of police brutality or victim shaming Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery. Or echoing racist dog whistles like "black on black" crime. They cloak themselves in rabid nationalism -- no, not patriotism -- conspiracy theories, faked videos and the hateful ramblings of Trump and his ilk.


Those people are the problem.


Meantime, Toyer is planning on talking with other communities and has been involved in rallies throughout the region, most recently Coos Bay.


“It’s a very important time for our country,” she said. “People need to wake up and see the reality that’s racism and how it’s hurting us,” she said. “I want a better world for my son -- and everyone else’s sons and daughters. We want a better world with no more Trayvon Martins, Tamir Rices or George Floyds. That’s why I’m doing this -- and I’m not giving up.”


Toyer said an event is being planned for Aug. 29. Starting at 10 a.m. that Saturday, there will be a march followed by a BBQ at Palmerton Park. There will be a mic open for biracial people to speak about their experiences, she said. Some performances are planned as well.


It's called "You Are Enough," she said.


"This is a peaceful gathering and I hope folks will stop by," Toyer said. "This is how you open a dialogue with others and cultivate an understanding. That's how things change for the better. In the meantime, we're printing up brochures and will be passing them throughout Rogue River soon."


This could be a defining moment for the Rogue River community. A positive one, some hope.


Toyer is a member of the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity. It's been corrected and The Rogue Free Press apologizes for the mistake.



PolitiFact BLM:

https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/jul/21/black-lives-matter-marxist-movement/


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