Paramilitary Attempts to Sow Distrust in Deschutes County Election

Dear ROPnet,

On the morning of election day, May 21st, ROP got a message from a local human dignity leader that People’s Rights, a paramilitary organization founded by the Bundy family, was planning a rally at the Deschutes County Clerk’s office. We were immediately concerned that they would attempt to intimidate, harass, or even block voters from participating in a free and fair election, because they have discussed wanting to do exactly that.

Read on to learn how local human dignity organizers worked with ROP to jump into action and make sure the rally didn’t interfere with our democratic right to a free and fair election!

Here’s how folks in Deschutes County took action

  • Contacted local human dignity group leaders across the county to make a coordinated plan
    • Identified people to observe the rally in person, without engaging or confronting it directly
  • Notified the county clerk as well as the Secretary of State’s office to inform them of the risk and make sure they have a plan in place
  • Reached out to state and national partners who work to combat political violence.
  • Communicated with the general community in a way that does not create further barriers to voting by spreading fear but instead, shares known information to support taking effective action

What we learned

  • Human dignity group leaders are always the first line of defense against anti-democratic attacks. 
  • The county clerk and the Secretary of State were taking the situation seriously, and had plans in place should harassment take place. They also appreciated calls of support from the broader community letting them know that “we are in this together.” 
  • Thoughtful communication with the broader community about any threats and intimidation will help spread accurate information and not create heightened fear or amplify anti-democratic efforts. For more information or help with your own messaging, reach out to ROP at sidra@rop.org
  • The media needs early and frequent contact from human dignity leaders. We put out a press release (see below) shortly after the fact, but the Central Oregon Daily had already covered the People’s Rights rally at face value, effectively amplifying the paramilitaries talking points with no fact-checking or opposing points of view. If we had contacted the media proactively, perhaps this coverage could have looked different.
  • One thing that we didn’t do but could have been useful would have been to work with local or state elected officials outside the clerk’s office to further strengthen community support for our democracy.

Reach out to ROP!

The power of ROP is that no one community has to recreate the wheel when we’re all learning from one another’s victories and failures! Have you faced something similar in your community? Do you want help talking through a plan for the November election? Reach out to us at sidra@rop.org

Warmly,
Sidra and the ROP Team

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