The right-wing demand to immediately lift all stay-home orders traveled across Oregon today without seeming to gather any momentum.
A small group of conservative activists held a sleepy protest in Seaside, Ore., on Saturday called "ReOpen the Coast," equating public health shutdowns with tyranny and seeking the attention that has followed similar rallies nationwide.
"I would rather die a patriot than a coward," said Haley Adams, one of the event organizers and an associate of a violent men's group called the Proud Boys. "That's why I'm here today."
Adams spoke to a crowd of roughly 50 demonstrators waving American flags and a Trump 2020 flag in the wind. Seagulls screeched above speeches delivered with a bullhorn.
Across the state, in Medford, a somewhat larger crowd attended a "Faith and Freedom" rally that appeared to attract a wider base of support. But the crowds did not expand from the May 2 rally at the Oregon Capitol, and any prospect of a Willamette Valley political fight spilling into small towns did not seem to have materialized.
Perhaps the small turnout in Seaside was a result of Saturday's dreary weather. But it might also indicate the increasing irrelevance of the "ReOpen" movement.
It gained nationwide momentum in April, as conservatives aligned themselves with President Donald Trump over Democratic governors who told people to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. But yesterday, the majority of Oregon entered the initial stage of its reopening plan, and the very beach at which the protesters gathered is slated to open May 18—two days from now.
In other words, the very changes protesters are demanding are already happening.
Those who did speak espoused conspiracy theories about the virus. A man who identified himself as Avery, a Seaside small business owner, said the pandemic has cost Seaside businesses millions of dollars in damages, and that Bill Gates is to blame.
Yards away from the action, diners eating on the outdoor patio of a nearby restaurant glanced toward the protesters. And what appeared to be a group of locals held a red sign that read "GO AWAY," directed at the speakers.
A woman who identified herself as Martha gave a short speech toward the end of the rally.
"We do not have to be afraid of this virus. This is their way to control us. We were born with an immune system. All you have to do is use it and trust it. Out body is self-healing, it's self regulating," she said. "I convince people to take off their masks."