Around 100 people gathered Tuesday, Dec. 29, in downtown Estacada to rally around local businesses that plan to reopen on New Year's Day, in spite of COVID-19 restrictions.
Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine and Molalla Mayor-elect Scott Keyser are part of a movement encouraging businesses to open one level below the COVID-19 categories outlined by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
Though Mayor Drinkwine and several Estacada city councilors were in attendance, city staff clarified that the event was not sponsored or approved by the city.
Drinkwine said the goal of the rally was to support local businesses.
"Rural America is bleeding, and we need to talk about that. That's why we're all here. We're all feeling this, and it's starting to wear on a lot of us," he said.
Pulliam questioned why larger chain stores have been allowed to remain open while smaller, locally owned establishments have not.
"Where's the evidence? Do you know where it is?" he asked attendees. "Because I've certainly not been contacted by the governor or her staff like she promised me five days ago to provide the evidence on why it's OK to jam pack the big box stores in corporate America, but we can't stand up and support a locally owned Main Street business."
"I'm going to tell you what I told Gov. Brown," Pulliam continued. "We expect that same indifference that you gave to Antifa with over 100 days of riots on the streets, to our local small business owners."
Clackamas County is designated as extreme risk for COVID-19, based on the number of cases of the virus. Pulliam said establishments should be able to open with precautions for communities considered high risk, which would allow a reduced amount of indoor dining.
"We're talking proper precautions here — face masks, social distancing, meeting capacity requirements, sanitation. Our small business owners want to do what's right," he said.
Drinkwine stated that the movement to reopen was "not about the pandemic."
"It's about America standing for America. We all are America. We've got to get back to work. Without that, we fall apart," he said.
One speaker, who went by the name the Black Conservative Preacher, called on Christians to take action.
"Y'all been sitting in your churches in the four walls, trying to say we're doing ministry and outreach, but you haven't been fighting the real fight," he said. "What we're seeing right now doing in our world, in our society, is actually a spiritual war. Revelation 13 talks about accepting the mark of the beast right, yet how many of us are complying right now when we walk into stores? If you're going to fold and comply now, what's going to happen when I can't eat, unless I have the mark? We're already complying. None of us are really truly standing up yet."
He added that people should stand up rather than "give in to this Democratic antichrist spirit that's taken over our nation."
Business owners, community members respond
Eagle Creek Saloon Manager Megan Freauff told the crowd that the establishment plans to begin to offer indoor dining once again on Jan. 1.
"We are Estacada Eagle Creek strong. We're going to do it the right way. We're going to do it safely. We're going to do it so everyone's comfortable. If you're not comfortable, it's OK. You don't have to come out. But we need to stand up for our community, for our employees. We employ a lot of people in this area. We need them to get back to work. We want to survive and we want to stay strong," she said.
Gail Herman, owner of The Viewpoint in Estacada, shared that she was concerned about losing the establishment's business license because the property is not zoned as commercial and the restaurant had been grandfathered into the area.
Daryl Sanquist, owner of the Spot Tavern in Molalla, said he would be willing to donate to a fund for businesses who encounter fines for reopening.
Estacada resident Robert Mireles, who helped coordinate Tuesday's event, hopes more community members are able to return to work as a result of the reopening movement.
"I'm just a little guy trying to work, but I feel a weight on my shoulders, and I felt like I needed to do something about it," he said.
Pulliam told rally attendees that the event is "a two-way call to action."
"This is a call to action to our locally owned Main Street small businesses to take that chance. United we stand, divided we fall," he said. "But the final call to action I leave you with is that if you are not a small business owner, we need you in the streets. We need to pay for these businesses. We need to buy the hamburgers, cheeseburgers and milkshakes or go get a workout in support of these people. They deserve it."
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