On Friday night, more than 70 rural Oregonians virtually gathered for Build, Grow, Fight: A Rural Movement Strategy Session! We shared space with organizers from across the state and beyond to discuss the attempted coup, celebrated the victories that community organizing and building people’s power have made possible, and focused on how we’re going to keep growing the movement for human dignity and democracy. We know that insurrectionist movements don’t gain traction if people’s material needs are being met and that we all do better when we all do better. Together we committed to take action to build rural broadband, to support teachers on the frontlines, to push for building tax bases in our counties that pay for desperately needed infrastructure and services by taxing the extractive industries that are harvesting and exporting rural counties’ wealth, and more. Click here to watch the recording and read on for more of the juicy details!
Check out and register for any or all of these upcoming rural strategy sessions that move us forward on the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon:
Wednesday, January 27th, 6:30-8 pm PST (REGISTER TODAY!)
The rural housing crisis has been devastating for rural communities and small towns across Oregon and is worsening with the pandemic, economic recession, and catastrophic wildfires. Join this strategy session to hear from rural leaders fighting for affordable housing in their communities, discuss the work groups are doing to organize and build pressure for rent forgiveness and creative responses to houselessness and the need for affordable housing, and share what’s happening in your own rural community! REGISTER HERE TODAY!
Wednesday, February 10th, 6:30-8pm PST
Human dignity groups that make up the ROP network have been hard at work dismantling collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement for decades. The network has recently been making incredible strides holding rural police and sheriffs accountable to not breaking Oregon’s sanctuary law by using local resources to enforce federal immigration policy while upholding the demands coming from the Movement for Black Lives. Groups are working to create community-based alternatives to policing, successfully ousting corrupt Sheriffs, and are building pressure to meet the demands for justice for those harassed and killed by police. What’s working and where do we go from here? Register to join the conversation!
Tuesday, February 23rd, 6:30-8pm PST
Broadband internet has never been more essential than during the pandemic, and many communities are still struggling to get connected because of ridiculously high prices, the lack of physical infrastructure, or both. What can we do to push local and state governments toward truly accessible broadband internet? What grassroots efforts are already gaining traction in rural Oregon? Register here to join the conversation by phone or computer.
Here are some of the inspiring highlights from Build, Grow, Fight: A Rural Movement Strategy Session:
The strategy session kicked off with a series of stories from the frontlines of the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon: Rural Oregon’s priorities set through hundreds of conversations across the state.
Isabelle Fleuraud from Harney County shared her reactions to the insurrectionist actions at the capitol as someone who experienced firsthand the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and of her greater community in 2016. At that time, candidate Trump was running for office and these two takeovers represented the bookends of the Trump era for Isabelle. She shared the work of Rural Alliance for Diversity (RAD), a new group in Harney County that has been building toward racial justice in their community by installing headstones at the unmarked graves of Martha and Walter Anderson, the first Black ranchers in Harney County. Martha wrote the book Black Pioneers of the Northwest: 1800-1918. RAD has collaborated with the local library to carry the book and is working on a little free library with other resources and information about this family and racial justice.
After years of organizing, the last jail contract with ICE in Oregon was ended in 2020, but the work to end detention and deportation continues! Maru Mora Villalpando from La Resistencia joined us to share about the organizing inside and outside of the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, the private detention center Oregonians are held in, sometimes for years. People in detention at NWDC are currently hunger striking to protest being held in dangerous conditions as a deadly COVID-19 outbreak continues to worsen.
Jiselle Halfmoon-Thompson shared about the powerful work of KCUW Umatilla Reservation Community Radio, one of the vital community radio stations across our state making media by and for rural people. KCUW was founded by and is run through the tribal government. One of the pillars of the Roadmap is publicly-funded community media, which rural leaders have put forward as a priority after seeing so many newspapers and radio stations going under, getting bought up by huge corporations, or sliding further and further to the right. Jiselle and her team at KCUW are some of the many incredible media makers who are committed to creating a platform for community members to make their voices heard, and share messages that wouldn’t otherwise be heard over the airwaves. Check out the other community stations we partner with to air Rural Roots Rising, our monthly radio show and podcast here. Do you want to create community media in your area? Reach out to us at email@example.com!
Ken Volante from the Oregon Education Association shared how schools are basic components of rural community health, from access to healthcare with the school nurse to nutritious meals. Right now teachers are in an incredibly difficult position of finding ways for both staff and students to stay safe and keep learning through the pandemic while facing mounting community pressures to return to in-person learning before it’s safe to do so. Ken stressed the importance of having strong school boards and more!
Maig Tinnin shared about Jackson County organizing that has successfully stopped the police from displacing houseless folks by arresting or uprooting entire encampments at once – for now! Last summer, the county promised people without housing that they could shelter in place safely in a particular greenspace town. Despite their promise, the Medford police started sweeping campsites in that designated zone, and on one particular morning during the wildfires, they arrested a dozen people including a journalist. Thanks to the organizing going on to support unhoused folks dealing with unsafe wildfire smoke, and surviving through a pandemic, the police were caught on camera, and media attention, combined with threats of lawsuits have pressured the police into stopping these sweeps. The County still doesn’t have a permanent warming shelter or other much-needed resources, but Maig’s team has been continuing to work alongside unhoused folks in creating a pop-up warming shelter in a box truck, and they are hoping the continued collaborations will keep them ready if/when the police try arresting unhoused folks in large numbers again.
Another person working hard to fight back against police brutality on the call Friday was Briana Spencer. Briana is a former Rural Organizing Fellow and talked about her multifaceted work organizing protests in support of Black Lives Matter. As part of Pendleton Community Action Coalition, her team is intentionally organizing food drives, free meals, and other ways to meet the immediate needs of community members in part to improve the association people in her town have with activism. This week, Pendleton Community Action Coalition successfully ended Pendleton’s preservation of historic Confederate Street names.
Chuck Willer with the Coast Range Association shared about their recently released proposal for how to implement the Green New Deal for Western Oregon forest lands. He shared how 90% of Western Oregon’s private forest land is owned by the wealthiest 10% of Americans and how their proposal would change that picture dramatically. Coast Range Association proposes that we use the Green New Deal to buy out Wall Street owners and put control in the hands of locally-owned, cooperatively-held businesses modeled after the electric co-ops that many rural Oregonians are already familiar with. They layout how these cooperatives should be created with the expectation of capturing carbon, hiring locally to manage the forests, and opening up local mills instead of exporting raw logs like most of the corporate owners do. You can read more or listen to a podcast about their proposal here!
Folks in the strategy session flagged the threats of violence they were facing. Even as groups across the network are winning incredible victories, and doing powerful work, many of us are still facing the immediate danger of violent backlash. In fact, we are facing threats and intimidation because of the power of our movements and the victories we are winning! If your group is experiencing threats to your safety, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support! ROP has Safety & Security resources in English and Spanish available on our website to be shared out and we are always happy to strategize with groups facing violence, threats, and intimidation tactics.
Last week’s strategy session was a powerful reminder of what rural Oregonians are capable of. Check out the recording here and register now for the upcoming sessions to join the conversation!
- Affordable, Available, Accessible: Rural Housing Strategy Session – Wednesday, January 27th, 6:30-8 pm PST
- Building Rural Communities Safe From State Violence – Wednesday, February 10th, 6:30-8 pm PST
- Better Broadband, Basically – Tuesday, February 23rd, 6:30-8 pm PST
Emma and the ROP Team