A group of right-wing Oregonians plan on rallying in Salem next month to oppose Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s sweeping response to the coronavirus, joining a burgeoning national movement of conservative pushback to public health precautions.
Called “Reopen Oregon,” the May 2 event is meant to criticize Brown's series of executive orders forcing the state's economy into lockdown in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19. According to a Facebook event for the rally, protesters will “demand that Kate Brown’s ‘state of emergency’ declaration be removed immediately and that our freedoms be restored NOW!”
The planned demonstration is being coordinated by a group called Oregon Uniting for Liberty, which describes itself as “a purely grassroots group created by a handful of average working men and women of Oregon.” The May 2 rally, the organization’s website says, is about “reclaim[ing] our Natural Rights [sic] as described and secured in the Constitutions of the State of Oregon and the United States of America.”
Last month, Brown declared a state of emergency related to the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, then issued statewide orders that closed schools and non-essential businesses, and banned public gatherings. Governors in nearly every other state have issued similar orders. But now, just over a month since Brown announced her "stay-at-home" order, a wave of conservative resistance is beginning to mount against these public health measures.
While Brown has set parameters for when she will reopen Oregon's economy, her plan does not include a specific date—rather, it relies on Oregon's COVID-19 cases declining, and on the state having strong testing and treatment measures in place.
On Wednesday, thousands of Michiganders held a similar rally in Lansing, demanding Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to lift stay-at-home restrictions in the state. The protest, organized by a local coalition of Donald Trump-supporting groups, argued that the public health benefits of the shutdown do not outweigh the economic costs of shuttering businesses. Smaller protests in Kentucky and Ohio were also held Wednesday. The messages of these protests align with Trump's own recent efforts to reopen the economy soon, despite the fact that the country's number of COVID-19 cases now exceeds 640,000.
Now, right-wing groups in many other states are planning to follow suit, as reported by the New York Times Wednesday.
At least one Oregon elected official has expressed support for the Salem rally. Rep. Bill Post, a Republican who represents Keizer in the Oregon House, posted about the event on his Facebook page. He encouraged his followers to attend, though he also asked them to take health precautions.
The rally’s goals also overlap with Oregon Republican party rhetoric about COVID-19. On Wednesday, the Oregon Senate Republicans issued a critical press release in response to Brown’s announcement that Oregon would team up with California and Washington to strategize for the states’ eventual reopening.
“My caucus and I are having a difficult time understanding why communities in Oregon that have not been impacted by COVID-19 can’t return to business sooner than others in the state,” said Senator Herman Baertschiger in the release.
Just five of Oregon’s 36 counties have not had at least one confirmed case of COVID-19, according to Oregon Health Authority data.
A description on the rally’s Facebook event mentions that it is endorsed by Reopen America, a political action group or PAC) that first filed with the Federal Elections Committee on March 25. The PAC’s website describes it as “a grassroots organization founded for one purpose only, to get Americans back to work.” Its founder is Suzzanne Monk, a woman who has built a social media following as a Trump supporter.
As of Thursday morning, about 260 people planned to attend the May 2 rally on Facebook, and about 1,200 had signaled they were “interested” in attending.