22 July 2020
Note: This rally happened on 16 May 2020. I covered the event and wrote the article -- however, the publisher cut the it so much that it was nothing but a puff piece. They omitted key elements about Roberts' recklessness, the lawsuit and so on. I told the publisher not to run it.
By Brad Smith
MEDFORD, Ore. -- A few hundred or so protesters descended upon the Jackson County Saturday to decry alleged constitutional rights violations and other so-called inconveniences they’ve supposedly suffered due to the state’s COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions.
The event came one day after Oregon started the first phase of slowly reopening. According to Harvard’s Global Health Institute, Oregon – along with Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming – was performing the right number of CV-19 tests per day to properly and safely phase social distancing and other measures. Jackson County and over 30 others gradually reopened.
Event organizers said they would proceed with the rally regardless and said they expected over 1,000 participants. However, the numbers fell short of that.
While such an event usually requires a permit, the city of Medford said one wasn’t approved due to Gov. Kate Brown’s shelter in place orders. “In accordance with (Brown’s) statewide directive to cancel all events and gatherings larger than 25 people – in response to COVID-19 – (Medford) is not approving special event permits at this time,” said a press release.
Chief Scott Clauson, Medford Police Dept., issued a statement stating that his agency wouldn’t stop the event because MPD support individuals’ right to exercise constitutional freedoms. Last week, the Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office stated they would not be enforcing the state’s pandemic guidelines.
Despite both law enforcement agencies urging people to practice social distancing while out in public, event co-organizer Amy Rose said social distancing and other measures would not be enforced.
“We feel people are smart enough to do what’s best for themselves,” she said in media statements.
However, shortly after the 1 p.m. start time, event organizers – with county commissioner Colleen Roberts and state senator Herman Bautschiger (R – Grants Pass) present – urged protesters to move in closer and crowd together. Which they did.
Aside from disregarding social distancing, protesters also ignored mask guidelines. Many parents brought their children along and none wore masks either.
After a large April 24 lockdown protest in Madison, Wis., more than 72 people who attended were infected with CV-19. And, across the country and even the world, other places that have reopened are seeing surges of new cases. Germany’s leaders are looking at closing down after reopening.
Sarah Paisley was upset over the restrictions hitting religious organizations.
“I want to be in my church,” she said. “I don’t like this at all, being told I can’t be in my church and worshiping. This isn’t right.
Paisley acknowledged that the virus was initially a threat but “they” used it to get power over people.
“This is all about power and control,” she said. “It’s government overreach and it’s not right. We’re safe here, we’ve had a few cases and one’s dead. We’ll be fine – just let us open back up.”
Since the gathering restrictions went into effect late March, churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship have been adapting to the pandemic response. Gatherings under 25 people have been using social distancing or using social media platforms to have services online.
Ten churches across the state have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Brown earlier this month. The suit alleges that the governor is not acting according to the state constitution. Ray Hacke, a one-time sportswriter, is a staff attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, is representing the churches. PJI, a Sacramento, Calif.-based organization, has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group since it has challenged same-sex marriage laws and tried to champion reparative or conversion therapies – which have been debunked by many mental health professionals.
Hacke represented some churches in the Bay Area who opposed a cannabis dispensary. Although city commissioners did eventually side with the churches, an SF Weekly reporter covering the case wrote that Hacke’s courtroom antics rivaled Joe Pesci’s performance in “My Cousin Vinny.”
A local hate group, The RV Saltshakers – known for displaying graphic bloody images and attacking the LGBT community – was also present and did nothing to hide pictures from passing children. A few Confederate battle flags were displayed too – the Confederate government was founded upon slavery and oppression of blacks and upholding white supremacy. The Faith and Freedom event organizers didn’t object to the displays.
A number of participants handed out pamphlets about COVID-19 conspiracy theories:
• Some claimed that 5G technology caused the virus. Others said that Bill Gates and the “Big Pharma” cabal was behind the pandemic. The same pamphlets said contact tracing, a valuable tool in fighting pandemics, was a prelude to martial law and American citizens being herded into death camps.
• Some pamphlets repeated a debunked claim made by the Trump Administration that the Wuhan Institute of Virology received millions of dollars in grants from the previous administration. The money, the claim goes, came via the National Institutes of Health. The money actually went to the US based EcoHealth Alliance and $600,000 went to the Chinese lab. The same pamphlets also repeated claims made in the widely discredited video, Plandemic.
When Roberts spoke, she expressed her concerns about Jackson County’s Christians from attending church – however, she never said anything about the county’s number of Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other adherents.
According to polling data collected from different sources, Americans who take part in anti-lockdown protests are in the minority. The majority of the country do support lockdowns and are wary of opening too soon. Polls conducted by Fox News Channel and others revealed varying numbers for support, from 56 percent to 81 percent of Americans approve of such guidelines and restrictions.
Hacke's lawsuit failed. A Baker County judge attempted to run with it but the Oregon State Supreme Court shut it down.
As of July, the state is experiencing surges of new Covid-19 cases. Gov. Brown has issued new mandates in an effort to avoid another lockdown.
Many in the Southern Oregon area are refusing to comply.
All in the name of "freedom" . . . .
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