Over the summer of 2020, we have witnessed white supremacist militias and counter-protestors threaten, harass, and intimidate Black Lives Matter organizers in rural communities. We have also seen local law enforcement ignore these threats to community safety, and in some cases even encourage them. And we have seen federal officers kidnap undocumented community members and violate the rights of protesters trying to protect their neighbors. Protestors have been hit and run over by cars driven by civilians, by police, and in Medford, by the mayor of neighboring Phoenix, Oregon. In the face of threats like these, figuring out how to keep your group safe is necessary to continue doing the work, and it is also part of our collective work of building and practicing the systems that keep our communities safe for everyone who lives here.
Based on the number of requests from rural organizers that we have received for support in maintaining safety in this moment, we wanted to make these resources widely available. If you or your group is experiencing threats or intimidation of any sort, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for direct support. Email us at email@example.com.
Here are our top three Safety & Security tools that local groups have found helpful:
Organizing in the face of those who use threats and intimidation as a tactic to silence opposition can be frightening. We know that giving up won’t make the threats go away though, and these tools will help your group not just be courageous but also be strategic.
We are tracking incidents of harassment and/or threats towards local organizers to documented and expose the violent opposition our movements are up against. Have you or someone you know experienced threats or intimidation? Do you need support in creating systems of safety and security? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or your local ROP organizer! Tell us what you have seen or experienced so that we can better track and expose the patterns that are emerging across our network and our state.
We know that in many cases, threats of violence and harassment against organizers and protestors are not documented or taken seriously by local law enforcement. Others are experiencing direct harassment from local law enforcement themselves. In this context, it is often up to us to take inventory and use our own resources to create a culture of safety and security.
Know Your Rights for Activists, Protesters, and Organizers: Are you experiencing harassment from police, sheriffs, or other law enforcement because of your organizing? Are you thinking about engaging in civil disobedience and risking arrest? Join our training with the National Lawyers Guild by phone or computer to know what your rights are and how to protect them! Learn more about this training and upcoming ROP strategy sessions here.
Of course, these kinds of threats and violence are by no means new in rural Oregon. Our work against the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation brought serious threats and harassment to local leaders and organizers in Harney County, and to Rural Organizing Project more generally. One result was the creation of Up In Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement. Developed by Rural Organizing Project in partnership with Political Research Associates, Up In Arms offers information on who the Patriot Movement is and strategies for how community members can break out of a sense of isolation, form a group, and speak out with our vision of what the community should look like.
Do you have any questions or need support in creating a culture of safety and security in your organizing? Please reach out to Dancer at email@example.com or your friendly local ROP organizer! We’re happy to help you think through the biggest priorities for your group and your community!