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ROP is made up of human dignity groups with shared values: a belief in the equal worth of all communities, equal access to justice, and the right to self-determination. During a tour of Oregon in 1994, former Aryan Nations leader Floyd Cochran explained that white supremacist groups choose where to recruit based on whether the community responds to flyers being left in neighborhoods or at schools. If there is public outcry, they move on to another community, but if no one responds, they stay and recruit. By responding to a threat, we make sure that a positive and more united vision for our communities prevails.

How to Stop White Supremacist Recruitment

In 1994, Floyd Cochran toured Oregon, sharing how, as a former Aryan Nations leader, communities can effectively reject white supremacist recruiting by publicly showing opposition.

From “Floyd Cochran Coos Bay Talk – Not in Our Town”, 1994 Rural Oregon Tour

I want to acknowledge that it takes courage to be here today. One thing I think we all agree on is that we should not be afraid or intimidated within our own communities to speak to our neighbors. But that’s where we find ourselves today, and that in itself tells you that what’s happening here is wrong.”

“Together for Josephine” leader speaking at their press conference in 2015

They are the Oath Keepers, We are the Peace Makers

In April 2015, self-proclaimed militia groups led by the Oath Keepers put out a national call for “patriots” to join them to “fight the federal government” in what became a month-long armed encampment at the Sugar Pine Mine in Josephine County. The local news repeatedly quoted the Oath Keepers describing themselves as heroes with broad community support. Many community members were afraid to speak out because it was becoming normal for people to receive threats for writing letters to the editor or speaking at county commission meetings.

A man holding papers stands in front of a semicircle of people, all in front of a white building, facing an audience that cannot be seen in the photo.

They formed Together for Josephine and held a press conference. They shared with the media that militia groups did not speak for the community and called for an end to threats and intimidation. Armed militia members yelled over community leaders and interrupted the press conference in front of reporters and their cameras, which was covered extensively on the local news. Together for Josephine published a signature ad in the newspaper the following day calling for community unity, gathering 109 signatures in 24 hours. No longer able to claim that they were “saving” Josephine County, militia groups packed up and headed home.

A side panel from a page of the of May 15, 2015 Grants Pass Daily Courier entitled “Together for Josephine County.” The side panel contains a statement and list of names above a photo of trees and a shallow, rocky creek under a smoky sky.
“Together for Josephine County.” Daily Courier, May 15, 2015, p. 3A.

Together for Josephine County

We are Josephine County residents working to build a prosperous local economy and a safe environment in which to raise our families. We are active community members, including teachers, farmers, business owners, faith leaders and parents who love our children. Some of us have lived in this beautiful county our entire lives, while many of us have settled here after falling in love with it. We may have diverse opinions, backgrounds and experiences, but we are all privileged to call this place home.

The events surrounding the Sugar Pine mine are troubling to us, since it appears that what is in actuality a legal dispute has been construed by some individuals from outside our community as an opportunity to advance their own agenda. Now is not the time for division, fragmentation, or an “every man for himself” attitude, but rather a time for us to come together to create the Josephine County we want and need.

We support a vision of a county where

  • All can live in safety and without fear or intimidation
  • Democracy thrives and those living in the community decide who represent and speak for us
  • Problems are resolved peacefully through negotiation and with respect for all parties Involved

Please join us in making this vision a reality.

Harney County Speaks for Themselves

In 2016, out-of-town militias descended on Harney County for a stand-off with the federal government at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the Burns Paiute Tribe’s home. Militia leaders claimed that Harney County wanted the militias to “save” them from “tyranny” while they gathered international media attention to fundraise and advance their own agenda. For over a month, daily life was completely disrupted: schools were shut down, Forest Service offices were closed due to threats of violence, roads were barricaded, and community leaders and their families were relentlessly threatened and stalked.

Speaking out against a month-long militia occupation in Harney County, 350 people rallied on the Harney County courthouse steps in 2016!

A large number of people holding signs in the snow, in front of a brick courthouse building and trees.

Fed up, more than 350 people rallied on the courthouse steps to demand that the militia leave town immediately. With signs declaring “Do you speak Paiute? Go home, you don’t speak for us!”, the residents of Harney County refused to let the militia speak for them or drive further wedges in their community. Their courageous community response took the wind out of the sails of militia groups, who claimed that they were invited and welcomed with extensive community support, and the stand-off ended soon after.

Up In Arms: Oregon’s Guide to the Patriot Movement

Read more about human dignity groups who push back against militias and the strategies they use. Since publication in 2016, many of the patriot movement groups discussed in its pages have faced consequences for their participation in the Capitol Insurrection on January 6th, 2021. Most recently, the Oathkeepers’ leader, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted of seditious conspiracy and other federal offenses and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Stopping the Aryan Nations

In February 2010, Grant County community members learned that an Aryan Nations leader was trying to purchase land for a training center in John Day. Community leaders immediately responded with a rally of more than 60 people, dozens of letters to the editor published in the area newspapers, and No Hate signs posted all over the county. The Blue Mountain Eagle, the local newspaper, hosted community discussions and published regular updates. After the community made its priorities known, the Aryan Nations leader decided to stop trying to purchase property in Oregon!

A gathering of dozens of people near a small-town roadside with hills in the background. Many are holding signs, including one that reads, “Say no! To Nazi.”
Rural Oregon is a Hate Free Zone

Read the announcement ROP shared in 2010, about John Day organizing the week they found out about the Aryan Nations’s intentions. Communities across the state were encouraged to act in solidarity with John Day.

Taking Action for Racial Justice

In the summer of 2020, rural Oregonians from every county held actions to protest the police murders of Black and Brown people. Local human dignity groups used this moment to demand change nationally and locally, like in Jefferson County, pictured below.

A tightly packed group of people holding anti-racist and other signs, including those with names of people recently killed by police. One reads, “I Can’t Breathe.”

People in all 36 Oregon counties took action for racial justice in 2020!

Listen to a few audio snapshots from June 2020, when people from every Oregon County hosted community events in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.

From “Black Lives Matter: Voices of Rural Oregon”, Rural Roots Rising

CROWD NOISE – Chanting Black Lives Matter

Emma: What’s your name? Anything you’re willing to share? 

Adriana: I’m Adriana Aquarius. I am the 21 year old who put the protest together, downtown Bend on Saturday. 

CROWD NOISE & MUSIC – Chanting Black Lives Matter, Chanting No Justice No Peace

Narrator: Over the course of the month, there have been Black Lives Matter protests all around the nation and beyond. Here in Oregon, rural communities have hosted over 75 protests throughout every corner of the state. People are gathering on street corners, in churches and parks and in socially distanced car caravans to protest and hold a vigil for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the many other Black and Brown people killed by police. Some rural actions had attendance in the hundreds, others were smaller, with only a handful of dedicated community members. Almost all of these protests were organized (CROWD NOISE) by young people braving a pandemic. With actions now in every county across our state, there are no signs of them stopping. 

Emma: Why did you decide to come out today or, why did you decide to organize that protest? 

Adriana: I’m fighting for the generations behind me. I’m fighting for the generations that I’m going to bring into this world. Things need to change now. 

CROWD NOISE – Chanting No Justice No Peace

Josephine County Holds 2016 Candlelight Vigil for Black Lives

A Josephine County group, Rural Organizing for Racial Justice, refuses to let the opposition’s voices silence them as they honor those killed by police in 2016. Their work presaged the tragedies of June 2020 and increased support for Black Lives Matter. ROP groups have worked to sustain long-haul organizing and grow stronger as a movement year after year.

From “Candlelight Vigil for Black Lives”

Columbia County human dignity leaders formed Vernonia Equality & Racial Justice, which worked with the City of Vernonia to adopt a resolution denouncing racism and police brutality against Black people. They also established a plan to educate city leaders on racial equity, and commit the city to collaborating on a hate and bias crime reporting system.

Read the full story of how a small group of people successfully passed a Resolution of the City of Vernonia Supporting Equality and Inclusion, and check out the full text of the resolution here.

ROP in Action!

Click here for more tools and stories on ways to take action!