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Journalists outnumbered participants at a 'million militia'-style protest at the Oregon State Capitol on Sunday, Jan. 17.

PMG PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - Members of the West Oregon Liberty Boys pose for photos near the boarded-up windows of the Oregon State Capitol on Sunday, Jan. 17.Fears of unrest at the Oregon State Capitol turned out to be unfounded last weekend, after a small showing of armed protesters dispersed peacefully in Salem on Sunday, Jan. 17.

The windows of the Capitol building were boarded up, the local branch of the FBI established a command center and Gov. Kate Brown deployed a contingent of National Guard to patrol the center of government in Salem ahead of the feared weekend revolt. The mobilization was partially spurred by social media chatter from various right-wing groups planning protests in the wake of a near-insurrection in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

Flyers calling for a "million militia" march at every state Capitol put officials on high alert, though Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson and Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio both indicated their groups would not participate in protests locally or nationally.

Precautions weren't needed after all on Sunday, even as a small band of "Boogaloo Boys" carried long guns and posed for photos for a gaggle of journalists before retreating to a lawn tent stocked with charcuterie, hummus and Welch's fruit snacks.

Speaking with a reporter, the handful of youth proclaimed themselves the West Oregon Liberty Boys, saying they eschewed the term "Boogaloo Boys" because they didn't want to be associated with extremists. "Boogaloo" has become Internet slang for a supposed second Civil War, and some in Salem wore the Hawaiian shirts that have become the movement's calling card.

The Liberty Boys said in an interview they were there to advocate for individual rights.

"Basically if you're not hurting anyone else, there is no crime," one remarked. "We believe in minority rights, because the smallest minority is the individual."

The troupe referred to limits on owning guns or drugs as examples of infringement on personal liberty, as well as COVID-19 business shutdowns and mask mandates.

"If you want to make the decision to freely walk out of your door knowing there's a pandemic, you should be able to make that decision," said one.

Added another: "And if you are concerned, you're free to stay in your home for as long as you want."

A similar protest on Saturday, Jan. 16, was attended by just one or two people, according to social media reports.


Zane Sparling
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