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As global crises evolve over time, from wars abroad to the immediate impacts of climate change, so does the work of human dignity groups. We organize to create a country where our national priorities address our communities’ realities.

In the early 2000s, while our country was investing trillions of dollars and sending thousands of young people to fight in wars abroad, every county in the state held massive peace vigils against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Politicians used the 9/11 terror attacks to justify huge expansions in government surveillance, dismantling civil liberties and making it harder for undocumented people to exercise well-established rights, like applying for asylum or a driver’s license. All the while, the 2008 financial crisis was already brewing in rural America, leading to severe cuts in school funding, libraries, health care, and veterans’ services. In response, communities across the state joined forces to demand an end to the wars both at home and abroad, knowing we are more powerful together.

Walk for Truth, Justice & Community

In 2005, we gathered in living rooms across the state to envision a march across Oregon that could amplify the outrage of rural Oregonians.

Our demand: that we put a stop to the endless wars abroad and that our tax dollars be spent at home.

A long line of marchers along a road-side, dressed in bright clothes and yellow hats, carrying signs including a rainbow flag, the peace symbol, and one that reads “honk for peace.”

The Walk for Truth, Justice, and Community was a week-long march from Salem to Portland that ROP led with PCUN, Oregon’s farmworker union.

Teams from every county joined together, holding signs and flags along Oregon highways, highlighting our communities’ real priorities: good schools, affordable and accessible healthcare, and civil rights for everyone.

Leading March Security “Blew all the Cobwebs Out” About People Coming Together

Dancer Davis shares how PCUN’s Director at the time, Ramon Ramirez, assigned her to lead the security team for the Walk for Truth, Justice and Community in 2005. She reflects on how the team, made up of middle-aged white lesbians and young Latino men, learned to collaborate across language barriers and imagined differences.

From “Dancer Davis on The Walk,” Rural Organizing Voices

The Co$t of War

After the Walk for Truth, Justice, and Community, groups took the message home with the 2006 “Co$t of War” campaign. ROP held town halls in every rural federal congressional district. Veterans, social service providers, city and county elected officials, and human dignity groups testified to the offices of Oregon’s US Representatives about how badly we need to divest from war and invest our tax dollars in rural communities.

Brightly dressed people holding yellow signs focused on the Cost of War.

Rural Oregon went on record to declare that we needed real investment in our communities, not the erosion of our civil rights and scapegoating of immigrants, to solve rural Oregon’s economic challenges.

  • Baker: $16M
  • Benton: $103M
  • Clackamas: $554.5M
  • Clatsop: $40.7M
  • Columbia: $62.8M
  • Coos: $62.3M
  • Crook: $21.2M
  • Curry: $20M
  • Deschutes: $151.9M
  • Douglas: $105M
  • Gilliam: $2M
  • Grant: $8.1M
  • Harney: $7.5M
  • Hood River: $24.6M
  • Jackson: $207.8M
  • Jefferson: $21.4M
  • Josephine: $74.4M
  • Klamath: $63.3M
  • Lake: $6.9M
  • Lane: $375.3M
  • Lincoln: $45.8M
  • Linn: $121.6M
  • Malheur: $30.1M
  • Marion: $361.2M
  • Morrow: $12M
  • Multnomah: $858M
  • Polk: $83M
  • Sherman: $2M
  • Tillamook: $26.2M
  • Umatilla: $80.4M
  • Union: $26.1M
  • Wallowa: $7.3M
  • Wasco: $26.9M
  • Washington: $730.2M
  • Wheeler: $1.4M
  • Yamhill: $117.9M

$4,681: Cost of war per Oregon household in 2008

Former ROP board chair Kathy Paterno, reflects on why it is important to put war in the context of not just the human toll it takes, but also its economic cost to communities.

From “Kathy Paterno – The Cost of War Frame,” Rural Organizing Voices

I and many people, had had this anti-war attitude, based basically on the fact that violence is wrong and, you know, people get hurt and die. You know.  But to put this in the language of cost was really new for me. So putting, putting the war in a cost frame was brilliant. I mean I just really hadn’t seen it that way. That it’s costing all of us. It’s not just wrong because it’s violence. It’s costing us, you know, economically, spiritually. And also it’s hurting us, our families and our communities, and what is this whole cost that we’re all experiencing?

Building Bridges in Sheridan

In 2018, the Trump Administration ordered immigration authorities to separate asylum-seeking parents from their children and detain them in five prisons in five states, including the Sheridan Federal Correctional Institution in Yamhill County.

When Navneet Kaur found out that people seeking asylum from across the world had been separated from their children at the US-Mexico border and sent by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Sheridan, she drove directly to the prison.

From “It Takes All of Us,” Rural Roots Rising

So I just, the next day, I drove to Sheridan, just on my own. And there were prison guards there and they stopped me there and they were like, “Oh Ma’am, what can we help you with?” And I just pulled my window down. I was like, “Oh, I hear that they’re men from India. And I would like to see what I can do to help them” and they’re like–Oh, they were actually laughing in my face like, “Ma’am you can’t go in there.” “Like why not? Let me meet at least one of them. Let me see what they need. Because you know, they can’t communicate. I’m pretty sure they can’t communicate in English.” And he’s like “No Ma’am, please turn around and go back home.”

At the same time, Unidos Bridging Community, Progressive Yamhill, and other local human dignity groups joined together to coordinate an immediate 60-person protest. Together they formed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Out of Sheridan coalition, which helped organize weekly interfaith vigils attended by thousands of people outside the prison, with Langars (Sikh community kitchens) that fed hundreds of supporters (pictured below). Thanks to six months of constant action and pressure by ICE Out of Sheridan, legal teams, and partnered organizations, everyone sent by ICE to Sheridan was released!

A group of people wearing head coverings stand in a line, serving food from large pots with big spoons.

After 6 months of continued community pressure, 124 asylum seekers from 16 countries were released from Sheridan!

Let Our People Go

Check out this video made by MoveOn about the victory of rural Oregonians coming together and successfully winning the release of 124 asylum seekers detained by immigration forces at FCI Sheridan.

Reflecting on the entire 6 months of work, Navneet believes the whole community coming together was the only reason we were able to win the release of all 124 men.

From “It Takes All of Us,” Rural Roots Rising

Hannah: What have you found that has helped you in your processing and healing since then? And I’m sure it’s ongoing – not to say that it’s over.

Navneet: Yeah, I just think that once I started seeing the process working, that helped. And I think that the system works, it does work, and I have experienced that. But that it took so long for that system to get into action! That was really difficult.

Hannah: And it worked it seems like, in many ways because so many people, like it wouldn’t have worked …

Navneet: Oh, no, it would not have.

Hannah: If they hadn’t had access to pro bono lawyers and interpreters, like yourself, and other people who took action.

Navneet: And I think that it was​ ​the whole community that came together. You know, it was not just the lawyers. I know of other places that have had pro bono lawyers. I know of other places where there were – Let’s take for example, there was, I don’t remember the name of the city in, in California, where there were over 700 such men detained and nothing happened there. Because the whole community did not come together like we did here. So, that is what worked, that is what I love about Oregon.

ROP in Action!

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