'Reopen Oregon' rally draws protesters from across state
They're sick and tired of "stay at home" — so they didn't.
Instead, a crowd of perhaps 1,000 tightly packed protesters converged outside the Oregon state Capitol to spread a message of dissent during a "Reopen Oregon" rally on Saturday, May 2, in Salem.
"We should be back to work, not hiding in our homes living in fear. One-hundred and eight people are dead supposedly — that's life," said Joe Brinsfield of West Salem. "This whole COVID thing is b------t. It's a way for the government to distract us and control us."
Brinsfield and other demonstrators aimed much of their ire at Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, whose quarantine orders have shut schools, closed thousands of businesses and essentially halted social gatherings of all kinds in order to fight the novel coronavirus.
Public health officials say the stay-at-home order issued March 23 has prevented thousands of COVID-19 infections that otherwise would have swamped hospitals. Authorities say the urge to reopen too quickly could reinflate the curve of transmission.
But warnings to wear face coverings and keep apart went largely unheeded at the event, as a boisterous crowd chanted and cheered despite heavy rain that made megaphones slippery and protest signs soggy. The honk of car horns resounded off the looming gray rotunda of the Capitol as a car caravan looped around Court Street Northeast for two-plus hours.
"More people are dying from poverty at this point than from a virus that exists, but is way less deadly than the media is portraying it to be," said an open-carry activist, who gave his name as Ace. "The lockdown is an attempt by Kate Brown to take control."
Ace and his comrade in arms from Jackson County carried rifles to the event, saying they were exercising their Second Amendment rights. Other protesters carried signs referencing QAnon — an internet theory warning of a labyrinthine conspiracy to overthrow the government. Ace had patches reading "boogaloo," another meme about a second Civil War.
Reopen Oregon rally crowd has grown to at least 1,000 despite the rain and noise here in Salem today pic.twitter.com/gKmIFAklPi— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) May 2, 2020
With the doors to the Capitol locked, and no scheduled speakers, most protesters contented themselves with cheering, talking or watching a massive Schurter Trucking dump truck rear up on its hydraulics.
There was no visible police presence at the rally, though a squad car did drive by.
Candidates from the ongoing Republican primary and the perennial effort to recall Brown also canvassed the crowd, and several people clumped together beneath the flag of the Proud Boys. Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson found a microphone and gave a speech, calling on churches to reopen, saying "it's time that we demand our right to go back to work."
Erin Bell — a registered nurse at a Portland emergency room — had a different diagnosis.
"Hospitals in Oregon don't have enough personal protective equipment for health care workers," she said at the rally, "so to reopen the state when we aren't adequately protected to care for increasing numbers of sick people is sending lambs to slaughter."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.