Showing Up Against Attacks on Democracy

How have you been feeling following the May elections? At the Rural Caucus and Strategy Session last month, over 100 rural and small-town Oregonians dug in together to debrief the election results and strategize about our local organizing going forward. Some folks arrived having won major victories against anti-democratic candidates including members of People’s Rights and Moms for Liberty. Others watched as well-funded right-wing candidates with anti-2SLGBTQIA+ agendas won important school board seats. Together, we celebrated wins and reflected on lessons learned. From these conversations, we identified opportunities to keep talking with our neighbors about the issues we care about, bring more people into the movement, lead with our values, and make a plan for how to organize for the long haul.

What comes next?

Unfortunately, the intimidation, exclusion, and violence that the far Right is known for have reared their heads in the wake of this election. We’re seeing backlash against major victories won in Redmond, and it’s clear that in places where the Right won, they are feeling emboldened to harass, intimidate and double down on fascism at every turn. Below are a few examples of how human dignity organizers are holding their ground and showing up in the face of white supremacy and anti-democratic attacks.

Central Oregon:

Central Oregon Diversity Project (CODP), a Black femme-led group that is dedicated to providing mutual aid, connection, solidarity, and opportunity to Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and People of Color, got national attention when wrote a solidarity statement asking for the resignation of Vikki Breese-Iverson after the Oregon representative’s son was photographed doing a Nazi salute in front of a replica Nazi plane. They reached out to other groups like Redmond Collective Action to spread the word and draw more attention to their call to action, which includes contacting state legislators to hold Representative Breese-Iverson accountable for supporting anti-semitism. Josie Stanfield, a human dignity organizer and the Director of CODP, shared that “We are seeing the signs right here, right now, in front of our faces. If we don’t address it, these actions will only escalate.” 

Meanwhile, in Redmond, someone left a dead raccoon and a sign with an intimidating threat in front of the law offices of Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch. The message was also addressed to the only Black City Councilor, Clifford Evelyn. In response, human dignity groups Redmond Collective Action (RCA) and Building Redmond’s Future PAC brought people out to fill the council chambers multiple times to denounce racism, and declare that “we will not be intimidated.” Thanks to the groups’ strong outreach, the Redmond community has come together to support their city council and voice their outrage at the racist message, while also expanding the conversation beyond this single incident to the racism that others in the community face every day. A fourth grader shared powerful testimony about the bullying he faces in schools and the Mayor declared “Redmond is not unique or set apart when it comes to the issues of race. To pretend that we are is to contribute to the damage.”

Redmond community members showed up in such force that councilors who responded dismissively at first are now open to listening and learning from community members about their experiences of racism. Another win for the group demanding action was that after they spoke, a member of People’s Rights chose to leave instead of speaking in defense of the Confederate flag as he usually does. Stephanie Hunter with RCA shared: “I hope to have two to three people at every meeting speaking out against hate and maybe they will leave every time.”

If you are outside of Central Oregon, you can still be in solidarity by sending letters of support to Councilor Clifford Evelyn and Mayor Ed Fitch, writing a letter to the editor in your local paper, and calling Vikki Breese-Iverson or your own Representative.

Klamath County:

Book bans, censorship, and attacks on our freedom of speech are on the rise all over the state of Oregon. In early May, Commissioners shut down a book club at the Klamath County Library for discussing a book titled No More Police: A Case for Abolition, stating that the library should not be “political.” The complaint that sparked the action has apparently come from a community member who doesn’t even have a library card. 

The friends of the library as well as the local League of Women Voters chapter urged folks to show up and show their support for the library, providing testimony at the Library Advisory Board meeting as well as at the latest Klamath County Commissioners work session. The League of Women Voters of Klamath County shared in their most recent newsletter: “Concerned residents are being urged to speak to the Klamath County Commissioners before their business meeting to register your misgivings about their library censorship,” and then shared basic information about free speech, asking their audience to decide for themselves whether this violated basic constitutional rights. Read their full newsletter here. And read their written testimony to the county commission below.

The friends of the library as well as the local League of Women Voters chapter urged folks to show up and show their support for the library, providing testimony at the Library Advisory Board meeting as well as at the latest Klamath County Commissioners work session. The League of Women Voters of Klamath County shared in their most recent newsletter: “Concerned residents are being urged to speak to the Klamath County Commissioners before their business meeting to register your misgivings about their library censorship,” and then shared basic information about free speech, asking their audience to decide for themselves whether this violated basic constitutional rights. Read their full newsletter here. And read their written testimony to the county commission below.

League of Women Voters of Klamath County logo reads LWV

All across Oregon:

June is Pride Month! Authoritarian groups have threatened to target public celebrations of both Pride and Juneteenth in an effort to push us out of community spaces. Groups around the state are refusing to allow these threats to stop us from celebrating in public spaces. We also know that in addition to being loud and visible, we need a plan to keep each other safe. Check out this Protecting Pride Organizing guide from the Western States Center that integrates interviews with pride organizers across Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Montana, discusses how Pride events are part of long-haul organizing and offers specific strategies and tools around messaging and safety plans. 

Every day people are showing up and making sure that acts of violence and discrimination do not get the last word in rural communities across the state! What’s happening in your community, and how is your group responding? Let us know by emailing emma@rop.org

Attention Klamath County Commissioners:

With all due respect, the League of Women Voters of Klamath County wishes to register our concerns about the manner in which the County Commissioners have:

a)  ignored the long-standing process by which complaints about the operation of the Klamath County Library are handled,

b) invalidated the purpose of the Library Advisory Board,

c) disregarded the First Amendment rights to free speech in a public venue, namely the Library premises,

d) disrespected the majority of citizens who believe that open and civil public discourse is a community right within the Klamath County Library facility,

and e) minimized the opportunity for the public to speak on these issues.

We have to ask ourselves what country we are living in when the very principles of democracy are so easily vacated.

We would like to encourage all of you to uphold the Klamath County Library procedures that were in place when the original complaints were received by the County Commissioners.  If our County Commissioners would so easily be swayed by a few complaints as to abort the complaint procedures in place for all citizens, we have to wonder what other issues “will go under the rug.”

It is paramount in today’s political world that our County Commissioners act as openly and democratically as possible in order to maintain the rule of law.  We do not monitor every action you take because when we elected you, there was the presumption that you would uphold the law and act in a trustworthy manner.  Your recent actions have undermined that trust.

We hope you will reconsider the manner in which you have handled the issues with the Klamath County Library and make every effort to restore our confidence and trust in the manner in which you govern the County.

Sincerely,

League of Women Voters of Klamath County

Every day people are showing up and making sure that acts of violence and discrimination do not get the last word in rural communities across the state! What’s happening in your community, and how is your group responding? Let us know by emailing emma@rop.org

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