PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds turned out to protest Oregon’s “Stay Home” order at the state capitol on Saturday. Demonstrators were demanding the immediate reopening of the state.
The #ReOpenOregon rally, organized by Oregon Uniting for Liberty, officially began at noon. The group was asking Oregonians to gather peacefully and demand Gov. Kate Brown “remove all unconstitutional restrictions she has placed on the citizens and businesses of Oregon.”
Most people at the rally were not wearing face coverings or masks, and those outside their cars were not practicing social distancing. Some said they valued their freedoms over any concerns about the virus. Many others equated COVID-19 to the flu when KOIN 6 News reporter Jennifer Dowling spoke with them Saturday.
Many people in the crowd didn’t agree with the measures that have been put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some said they were speaking for those who are unemployed. One woman said that she felt that living with bacteria and viruses was a natural part of life and not a reason to shut down the economy. KOIN 6 News spoke with several people about their reasons for being at the protest:
“My husband is still working,” said Brenda Ellis of Albany. “I’m very thankful, but I want to represent people and just be a voice for freedom.”
“I don’t believe, based on everything that’s been revealed, that there’s a valid reason to keep it closed, nor was there a valid reason to close it in the first place,” said Shelly Ebert of Mt. Angel.
“Today I got on the phone and I called all these people from my church and from my neighborhood and even from some people out of state and said we’re meeting at the capitol today, come,” said Cynthia Palmatier of Southeast Portland. “I want our state to open before our country crumbles apart.”
“I have been doing teleworking for my job, but I think we just need the parks to reopen,” said Mark Callahan of Oregon City. “I want to go camping with my girls.”
Also at the Salem rally were counter-protesters, largely made up of health care workers who support the “Stay Home” order. They were in favor of a more cautious approach to reopening the state.
“It’s a little shocking to see so many people just disregarding human life, not wearing protective masks or staying six feet apart,” said Harriett Martin, a nurse among the counter-protesters. “I think the slow and steady route is probably the safest route. I just don’t want people to die unnecessarily.”
Some of the health care workers said they were heckled by members of the crowd on the capitol steps. Save for a few tense moments of shouting, the rally was peaceful.
Oregon Uniting for Liberty
In a statement released last week announcing its intentions to gather, Oregon Uniting for Liberty accused Brown of restricting freedom of assembly, free worship, closing access to public lands and keeping businesses from engaging in commerce.
“These orders are threatening the very freedom and liberties our Founding Fathers guaranteed to us in the Constitution–the same liberties guaranteed in the Oregon Constitution,” the group wrote.
“The grassroots organization understands COVID-19 is real and that it does pose a risk to certain vulnerable populations. They urge those who are high risk or individuals who interact with those that are, to use common sense and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and those who are vulnerable. However, they also encourage people to show support for re-opening Oregon by writing, emailing, and calling their elected officials. They firmly believe continuing to keep Oregon closed will result in irreparable damage to the state and its citizens as livelihoods, businesses, and freedoms slip further away with each passing day.”
The Oregon Republican Party said it supports the rally.
“This isn’t a partisan political event, but instead a public rally to rescue our livelihoods and freedoms from being extinguished by a government that has forgotten that, in America, government must operate with the consent of the governed,” wrote Oregon GOP Chairman Bill Currier.
KOIN 6 News will continue to update this story throughout the day.