The mayor of Sandy, Ore., took to social media this week to blast Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority, alleging they had forced the town to cancel its Fourth of July fireworks display.
Most other jurisdictions in Oregon, and around the country, canceled fireworks shows months ago, recognizing that a pandemic made holiday crowds unsafe. But Sandy held on and halted the planned festivities only after a threat of legal action, Mayor Stan Pulliam wrote on Facebook.
“The City of Sandy received notice today threatening legal action from the Oregon Health Authority if we don’t comply with the Governors Executive Order and cancel our annual Independence Day Fireworks display,” Pulliam posted on Facebook on June 30. “My gut instinct is to fight this, but as your mayor I can’t allow your tax dollars to go to a costly legal battle with so many other demands on our city. Our Governor and her power-hungry bureaucracy have bullied our citizens out of being able to celebrate Independence Day. I am devastated to announce the celebration is cancelled.”
He's the second Clackamas County mayor to lament that restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have put an end to patriotic celebrations. Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay complained on Facebook last month that protests against police violence were allowed to go on even as his town's Fourth of July party was not.
Pulliam also compared the protests unfavorably to fireworks shows, then sounded a revolutionary note. "Come together as communities in the way our founding fathers did," he wrote, "and have the discussions about whether we will allow this tyrannical Governor to stop our personal freedoms, or whether we will insist on the liberty of freedom we are guaranteed."
The culture war over following public health guidance continues against a backdrop of President Donald Trump's Independence Day weekend plans. He is ignoring any COVID-19 precautions and hosting fireworks at Mount Rushmore with no plans for social distancing or requirement to wear masks.
OHA denies it threatened legal action but says canceling mass gatherings is necessary to limit the spread of the virus.
"The Oregon Health Authority did not direct the city of Sandy to cancel its fireworks program, but we are glad city leaders decided not to hold the event," says OHA spokesman Robb Cowie. "This year we know that large gatherings expose people to the risk of getting sick with COVID-19 or spreading it to others. We encourage everyone to think carefully about your holiday plans and avoid big groups, wear a mask when you're in public, and limit contact with older adults and others who are most at risk of becoming severely ill or dying from the disease."
The governor again praised Oregonians for their sacrifices in the face of the disease.
"This is hard on all of us, and it's not how any of us imagined we'd spend this Fourth of July," says Gov. Kate Brown spokesman Charles Boyle. "But we're all making difficult sacrifices in order to protect each other during this pandemic."