Tools and Lessons from the Rural Organizing Project
When the so-called Patriot movement comes to rural Oregon, we at the Rural Organizing Project work with communities on the frontlines to defend our communities’ right to self-determination. We support ordinary Oregonians to bring together broad community coalitions to name their communities’ real priorities, to organize a base of neighbors who will show up and publicly name their communities’ values, and to expose the deeply anti-democratic tactics paramilitaries use to silence the rural Oregonians they claim to speak for.
We have been on the ground during national Patriot movement mobilizations that draw activists from across the country to armed camps and occupations in rural Oregon, terrorizing and ripping apart rural communities to advance a national narrative that helps them fundraise and recruit. We also have witnessed the ways this movement undermines local democracy, which includes creating fake, unelected bodies which claim to have power over the federal government and the right to make decisions on the behalf of the community. This so-called Patriot movement funnels out-of-state money into local elections, supporting candidates for county commission, sheriff, and other local positions, creating a dynamic where candidates and local politicians are more accountable to national Patriot groups than the people and the communities they are supposed to serve.
What we have learned is that when communities organize around their shared values and publicly resist attempts by outside groups to speak for them, paramilitaries lose support and move on.
A few key strategies are:
- Break isolation and build a group. Bring people together to share concerns, information, and ideas, including those who are on the fence about taking action.
- Put small town and rural values front and center. We do not need outside groups to dictate what we want most for our communities. Clearly naming our priorities and how we want to interact with our neighbors is key. What we value most should be the center of our work and our message.
- Silence is complicity. Paramilitaries thrive in communities that remain silent. Without opposition, they claim to speak and act on the behalf of the entire community, and the loudest and most persistent narrative wins. We must speak out and change the story being told to our neighbors.
This section offers the success stories of ordinary Oregonians who decided to organize, as well as practical guides to building a group, holding a meeting, and security, which will all contribute to the hard but critical work of building community and quickly responding to these crises. We hope the bravery and organizing brilliance of the many communities in rural Oregon who have taken action will inspire you and provide a roadmap of how to respond to the Patriot movement in your community.