Right-wing groups have planned events May 1 and 2 at the Oregon Capitol in Salem to protest Gov. Kate Brown's stay-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Oregon March for Freedom, hosted by American Revolution 2.0, and a Reopen Oregon rally, hosted by Oregon Uniting for Liberty, both argue that the governor's stay-home order is unconstitutional and a violation of civil liberties. They decry "unconstitutional laws and mandates, starting with the Executive Orders for lockdowns."
Oregon state Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer) initially shared the event on his Facebook page, but later removed it, he tells WW.
"In light of new information I've received from my sources in D.C., I've removed my post about the May 2 rally," Post wrote in a new Facebook post April 16. "I still believe we MUST open Oregon back up, but in a careful and logical manner."
In an email to WW, Post alluded to new plans that may be announced soon by President Donald Trump regarding social distancing measures.
"I trust that today or tomorrow, President Trump will be making a very big announcement, and that I fully support what he will be proposing," Post wrote in an email to WW. (He appears to have been referencing Trump's announcement today that governors are free to reopen their states sooner than May 1.)
The May 1 event, called "Oregon March for Freedom," carries the same sentiment, but has garnered a smaller response so far, with 66 people who've marked themselves as "going" and another 282 who are "interested."
Gov. Brown's executive order bans gatherings of 25 people or more, meaning any sizable crowd would be in violation of her order.
Such events have sprouted up nationwide, as modest but significant groups of conservative protesters demand that states reopen their economies.
In Michigan, hundreds gathered at the state's capitol in Lansing to protest's the governor's social distancing mandate. American Revolution 2.0, the group behind Oregon's May 1 protest, has planned nearly identical demonstrations in states across the country, including Arizona, Mississippi, Illinois and New Jersey.
Most of the protesters hail from rural regions that haven't experienced mass COVID-19 deaths. They argue that business shutdowns and lost jobs are doing more damage to their lives than the virus could. (Many also appear to be inflamed by Fox News coverage falsely claiming the health threat is overblown.)
Statewide shutdowns and social distancing have successfully lowered COVID-19 cases across the West Coast—just 28 patients are on ventilators in Oregon today—and public consensus remains firmly behind them. So far, organized opposition appears to be limited to the far right.
In Olympia, Wash., conservative protesters are planning a similar rally called "Hazardous Liberty! Defend the Constitution!" for this Sunday.
Patriot Prayer organizer Joey Gibson expressed support for the Olympia rally on Facebook and urged more people to attend. "They are using this virus as a means to exert their control over the people, and the more that they're able to do this and more that we put up with it, the more we become accustomed to it, the more that we accept it," Gibson said in a Facebook Live video on April 16.
The Facebook page for the April 19 event says the organizers are encouraging social distancing, and asks attendees to wear personal protective equipment.
"I know that there are many out there that will call this effort foolish—even reckless," the event posting says. "Also, if you're feeling sick or know you've been exposed, or if you're in a high-risk category, please consider not attending. What I AM asking, is that the public servants in our government recognize the limits placed upon them by our constitutions."