SALEM, Ore. – Crowds formed at the steps of the Oregon State Capitol building Saturday for a rally against restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
According to a description of the event hosted by the American Patriot Society, the aim is to “organize together and discuss options to respond to this tyranny. “
Joshua Michael, who formed the group and organized the rally, said one of his main concerns is in-person education for Oregon students. Low COVID-19 numbers are required before schools can return to in-person learning.
“The school policy is definitely catastrophic,” Michael said. “It’s not only going to destroy the economy and the job market, it’s going to destroy the socialization of kids and getting them kind of able to socialize with other kids. Sticking them behind an iPad and thinking they’re going to get an education is not the way to do it.”
The group said Oregon Governor Kate Brown and other leaders have “pushed too far” in their effort to restrict the actions of Oregonians during the pandemic.
Brandon Evans also attended the rally Saturday. He said he is standing up for his constitutional rights, pointing to the governor’s mask mandate and restrictions on gatherings.
“I haven’t been to church since the pandemic started, so our ability to assemble, those are rights given to us,” Evans said.
Speakers at the rally included Republican lawmakers and party leaders, as well as the owner of a Salem salon who made headlines for reopening her business in defiance of the governor’s orders. The salon was later fined $14,000 for violating state rules.
“Kate Brown shut down Oregon’s non-essential businesses on March 23 and she left us there to rot. To bury ourselves in debt. And to be in anxiety and despair,”said Lindsey Graham, owner of Glamour Salon.
The rally comes just days after Oregon surpassed 20,000 COVID-19 cases statewide. Despite mounting case numbers, the Oregon Health Authority said Friday the overall spread of the virus seems to have slowed.
“These numbers tell us that many Oregonians are taking action to stem the speed at which the virus is spreading," said State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger. "People are listening to Governor Brown's orders to wear face coverings, limit gathering sizes and the hours that restaurants and bars are open. People are staying physically distant."
Despite progress, Governor Brown also said Friday she plans to release guidance next week for face coverings that will be required when workers return to their offices. Governor Brown has long said that her decision are guided by the latest science and health data. Many school districts are also waiting for coronavirus case numbers to decline so they can meet state requirements to reopen schools to in-person learning.