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Showing posts with label hate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hate. Show all posts

31 January 2021

Medford bar proud of its racist sign UPDATED: Trophy Club issues 'non-apology,' plays victim card


This is the picture Ken Narasaki took as he drove by Medford's Trophy Club Bar & Grill. When he attempted to contact the owner, Narasaki was greeted with offensive remarks.

By Brad Smith

MEDFORD, Ore. -- On Monday, the Trophy Club took down its racist message and issued what some considered to be a "non-apology apology."

Then, the bar owners claimed they were victims of alleged death threats.

And, as of late Tuesday morning, the Trophy Club's Facebook page was taken down.

A few days ago, as he drove by the Trophy Club Bar & Grill, Ken Narasaki said he was "angered and shocked" by what he saw: The electronic sign proclaimed China Virus Hrs.

"It was very upsetting," he said. "Ever since the pandemic, Asian-Americans have been the brunt of racist attacks. It's ugly and wrong. What the hell is wrong with people?"

Narasaki said he nearly went inside the Trophy Club to speak with the owner.

"Then, I realized it could spiral out of control and there would be problems," he said. "So, I went home and figured a phone call would be best."

It wasn't.

When Narasaki called the Medford bar, located at 812 S. Central Ave., a female employee answered the phone. According to him, as he explained the situation and how "China Virus" was a racist slur, the employee hung up.

He called the bar again and, this time, a man answered.

"The guy used a terrible Asian accent and said, 'Hong Kong Chopstick Factory. Why don't you suck my fat white rod?'" Narasaki claimed. "It was very offensive but this guy thought he was funny."

The Rogue Free Press called the Trophy Club and after speaking with some female employees, spoke with a Brett Howard, after being initially blocked by an answering service. Howard said the sign wasn't racist and then launched into a series of personal attacks -- female employees could be heard giggling as he did so.

"Are you a moron," he said at one point. "Are you from around here? Are you even fucking married?"

Across social media, mainly Facebook and Yelp, the Trophy Club was slammed with complaints and negative reviews. Yelp finally locked down the bar's page until it could assess all of the negative postings.

Ambar Rodriguez, a reporter from CBS affiliate KTVL Channel 10, spoke with the other owner, Lori Fudge Howard, who issued this following statement:

"We are not and never have been racist, nor have our employees. The sign was not intended to be racist. It was to make light out of the situation we all have been going through for the past year. We apologize to whoever we offended. That was not our intention."

Narasaki called it a "non-apology."

"It's not an apology, I feel," he said. "I said that in my interview with the TV station. It's a 'non-apology apology.' No remorse, no honesty. None."

Rodriguez then reported the Howards took down the racist message due to alleged "death threats" they had received. Rodriguez said Lori Howard claimed that the bar had received telephonic threats. It's still uncertain if the Howards filed a report with the Medford Police Dept.

"So, they didn't take down the message because it was the right thing to do," one person opined on Facebook. "They took it down because of supposed death threats. They played the victim card."

This isn't the first case of anti Asian sentiment during the pandemic here in the Rogue Valley. Joe McPherson, who operates the Double R Pub in Rogue River, has made social media posts about "the Kung Flu" a number of times. Then again, given Rogue River's history of racism, no locals took issue with it. Recently, Grant Pass' Gold Miner Restaurant has advertised "China Virus" lunch specials for some time.

According to a September 2020 report issued by the Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign, a high school internship program at Stop AAPI Hate, a national center that collects reports of coronavirus discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, nearly 8 of 10 respondents expressed anger over the epidemic of hate against Asians as the pandemic went on. The data came from nearly 1,000 interviews of Asian American young adults conducted by a team of 87 Asian American high school students last summer.

According to NBC News, such cases were:
  • A 14-year-old student in Dallas was followed home by a group of high school boys who pretended to cough on him and shouted, "Ching chong! You have Chinese virus!"
  • A 17-year-old was told over social media that their "insides are full of 'fucking bats" and that they should kill themselves because they are a "dirty fucking dog eater."
  • An 18-year-old who was grocery shopping was called "chink" and told to go back where they came from.
It didn't help that Donald Trump kept using the term "China Virus" and emboldened his racist follows to do the same. According to Associated Press, there was a surge of racist social media memes that portrayed the Chinese as "bat eaters" responsible for spreading the virus and revived century-old tropes about Asian food being unclean and unhealthy.

Stop AAPI Hate reported last August that it had received more than 2,500 reports of hate and discrimination across the country since the group was founded in March, around the time the outbreak began to seriously worsen in the U.S. The group said it received data from 47 states, with 46 percent of the incidents taking place in California, followed by 14 percent in New York, AP also reported.

"I grew up in Washington state," Narasaki said. "I've dealt with racism before -- so, this isn't new to me. Being an actor in Seattle during the '70s and '80s, hell there was a lot of racism within the theater community. Now, there's this."

Narasaki has lived in Los Angeles the last several years but his girlfriend resides in the area. Since the pandemic, he's been spending a lot of time in southern Oregon.

"I love it here, I really do," he said. "And, I've met a many great, friendly and kind people. The scenery is something I've fallen in love with and I do feel at home here.

"But, the other day, I was reminded that there's still some ugliness in the world."

Narasaki shared his experience on social media and already the Trophy Club has been hit with negative comments on Yelp. Plus, there are early comments talking about previous examples of racism at the bar. The business' Facebook page has garnered negative reviews too.

In typical fashion, Trophy Club defenders have said there's no racism involved and everything has been blown out of proportion. Of course, many who are defending Howard and the Trophy Club are -- not surprisingly -- white. People have been quick to point out about the Spanish Flu pandemic, which broke out over a century ago. However, the "Spanish Flu" was a H1N1 virus that had genes of avian origin -- and it was first reported at an army base in Kansas. Fort Riley, to be exact, and it happened on March 11, 1918. It never originated in Spain.

But, let's be blunt: Given Brett Howard's interactions with the public and press about this, it's clear that he's fine with promoting a racist slur and sees no wrong with it. The reality is that Donald Trump didn't turn a large number of our follow Americans into rabid, hatemongering bullies and white nationalists.

He didn't.

Trump enabled them, emboldened them. For years, they lurked in the shadows and were afraid to announce and embrace their views. As president, Trump gave them the okay to be bigots and intolerant towards others.

What's happening now is going to be with the American people for a long time. No, it's not right. However, people can still take a stand against it.

Narasaki said he's received support from many after his initial post and many have said they will call the Trophy Club and complain.

"I hope people will take notice and take action," he said. "This isn't right. We're Americans and we should be better than this. You don't treat people like this. That's not who we are."

Here is Narasaki's post on Yelp:

Yelp took down my review of Trophy Club and their racist marquee because "it was not clear" that it was my "firsthand experience". Who the hell do you think took the photo of their marquee? And when a business writes a racist statement on their marquee, I think it's "firsthand experience" when you see it, which is sort of the point of a marquee.

Yelp also took down about a half-dozen other reviews complaining about that sign. Why? Yelp, are you in favor of protecting public racist sentiments?

I'm going to repost this because my experience does qualify as "first-hand experience":

I drove by this marquee on January 27, 2021, that crows "China Virus Hours".

A sign that proves that racism is alive and sick in Medford, Oregon.

This is not just "hurt feelings". I know from my own personal experience and from the experience of many of my Asian American friends, not to mention countless news articles, that Trump's (and others') use of the racist term "China Virus" led directly to hatred, open hostility, and violence against Asians and Asian Americans (racists never know the difference). People have been beaten, have had acid thrown in their faces, and have been spit on by people like this bar owner/manager.

Unless you're a white supremacist or think that maybe white supremacists might have a point, I suggest you not go here. Better yet, call (541) 772-4131 and tell them what you think of their sign.

Medfordians, do you want people to think that this is okay here?

ps: A quick check of their other Yelp reviews will show that this racist sign is no accident.

PPS: I called and tried to explain why "China Virus" was a racist term and the woman who answered simply hung up on me. When I called back, a guy answered in a mock Chinese accent: "Hong Kong Chopstick Factory. Why don't you suck my fat white rod?"




06 December 2020

Local hate group crawls out of the cyberspace cesspool



 The local hate group RV Saltshakers ended their social media exile last month. The SS Facebook page went dark in the wake of hatemongering leader Jon Clement and failed street preacher Ryan Clark were arrested after recklessly firing shotguns from a boat last October. Grants Pass cops nicked the pair after people in nearby parks claimed birdshot flew over their heads.

As reported, Clark took a plea deal and will serve ten days in custody, either jail or house arrest. He also got  18 months unsupervised probation and had to surrender his shotgun. Clement is in court on Dec. 14.

Clark and convicted child abuser Trevor Emptage will, no doubt, continue to harass innocent people and spread the Saltshakers' message of hate.

It's a shame that Anonymous or other hacktivists haven't taken action.

Yet.


Hate group member in court, pleads no contest on weapons charge


 
Ryan Clark, member of the hate group RV Salt Shakers, was in court last week on weapons charges.

By Brad Smith

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Ryan Clark, a supposed minister and member of the hate group known as the RV Salt Shakers, pleaded no contest to weapons charges last week.

According to records, Clark, 43, appeared in court on Dec. 2. and made his plea on the charges of unlawful use of a weapon. He was sentenced to ten days in custody – which could be served either at home or in jail – and placed on 18 months unsupervised probation. He also had to surrender his shotgun. In a plea agreement, additional charges of reckless endangerment were dismissed.

Clark and Jon Clement, 61, were arrested on Oct. 26 by Grants Pass police after the pair were allegedly shooting at birds from a pontoon boat drifting down the Rogue River. According to press releases, the two men fired shotguns as their boat drifted near both Tussing and Reinhart Volunteer Parks. Some witnesses reported they heard pellets pass overhead.

Clement and Clark were taken into custody sometime after 5 p.m. and were booked into the Josephine County Jail. Both were charged with unlawful use of a weapon and reckless endangerment.

Clement is the leader of RV Salt Shakers, a hate group that’s operated throughout southern Oregon for the last few years. Clark is allegedly a member as well. The Salt Shakers have been known to picket area Planned Parenthood clinics and harass patients and others using PP services. The Shakers have also been a nuisance at many local events, ranging from Pear Blossom to Ashland’s holiday parade. A number of groups have taken measures to bar the Salt Shakers from their events. They have also targeted the LGBTQ and immigrant communities.

Clement’s group has been accused of using fear tactics and even intimidation.

“(Fear tactics) are sometimes necessary to further our message,” he said in 2019. “If it helps our cause, we’ll do it.”

Word of Clement and Clark’s arrests spread like wildfire through social media and it wasn’t long before the group’s page was hit by trolling.

Clement is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 14.

Convicted child abuser Trevor Emptage is a member of the hate group as well. It’s still not known if a criminal record is a prerequisite for RV Salt Shaker membership.

As of press time, the RV Salt Shakers page, one of them, is up on social media. For how long is not known.


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.”

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.”


26 August 2020

Old fashioned, homespun, down to earth hate and bigotry -- it's the Rogue River and Trump's American Way!

By Brad Smith

ROGUE RIVER, Ore. --  Steven Essig, who has participated in a number of protests from Cave Junction to Portland, was in Medford the other night when peaceful protesters ran into hostile right wing extremists, including neo-Nazis Keith "Biome Michael" Erickson and Gregg Marchese. This is what "peace-loving patriots" screamed at the protesters:

"Silence is consent”
"No Kosher USA"
“What are you going to do when I fucking rape you?”
“White lives matter”
“Go back home f*g”
"Go back to Africa"
“USA USA USA USA”
“Fucking commies”
“Save the Children”
“You’re gonna get raped”
“What are you gonna do when your children are fucking raped?”

Welcome to the world of those who stand up for social justice and against racism and hatred.
 A few weeks ago, Dominique Toyer thought it would be a good idea to have an event at Rogue River, Ore., called "You Are Enough." There would be a march to the community's largest park, Palmerton Park; there would be a barbecue and biracial young people would talk about their experiences -- there would be entertainment too.

However, while a number of the locals have stated on social media they're attending the peaceful, family event, others haven't been so . . . welcoming.

As evident in the following screenshots:














What's very disturbing is Ms. Tolman's photo comment. She identifies herself as a healthcare worker. The Rogue Free Press would like to find her employer and inquire if her views represent their policies. For an alleged healthcare worker to post something like this -- even jokingly -- is troublesome.

Steve Eyles' posts are . . . well, judge for yourself. In past interactions with Eyles, he's launched into incoherent rants about "You Are Enough" as being a prelude to "burning, looting and murder" -- despite the fact that most of the nationwide violence has come from right-wing extremists. Merusi isn't much better. Taylor himself has a lengthy criminal past --  common for some Rogue River residents.

"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."

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.

Ms. Toyer, SOEquity and others are to be commended for bringing something like "You Are Enough" to Rogue River. Now, Rogue River has the chance to hear from their BIPOC residents and others -- hopefully, the dialogue and possible understanding Toyer has talked about will happen this Saturday.

Rogue River has the chance to do the right thing. Hopefully, its violent racist citizens won't do anything.

It's a lot to hope for. But, in the end, hope can achieve good things.









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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