PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM SOUTHERN OREGON COALITION FOR RACIAL EQUITY
Earlier this month, the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity (hereby referred to as SOEquity) announced we would be holding a community event and march in Rogue River, Oregon on Saturday, August 29, 2020 titled You Are Enough. The goal of this event was to provide a space for residents of Rogue River, especially young people of color, to share their experiences and educate the community on systemic racism. The original itinerary was to lawfully gather in front of Rogue River City Hall and collectively march to the nearby Palmerton Park, where a family-friendly barbecue would take place.
Both actions do not require permits and are protected by the First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. The City of Rogue River reached out to SOEquity requesting that we apply for permits for this event regardless. As our primary goal is education and we have no desire to provoke conflict, we agreed to fill out the permits and pay the corresponding fees. Despite this good faith effort, the City of Rogue River denied our park reservation request and parade permit stating that the Palmerton Park Pavilion had already been reserved and that they did not have the manpower to allow for us to march in the streets. They requested that we stay on the sidewalks and added that we were still welcome to gather in another area of Palmerton Park. We agreed to abide by these requests.
On Wednesday, August 26, 2020, we learned that a group known as the “Rogue River Patriots” had reserved the Palmerton Park Pavilion. Based on screenshots from their Facebook group, they did so with the express intent of disrupting the You Are Enough event and silencing the voices of their fellow residents. The screenshots shared with SOEquity also state that the Rogue River Patriots were working directly with the Rogue River Police Department. Specifically, one post by a group admin says:
RR POLICE DEPARTMENT: REQUESTED WE “HANG BACK” AND FOLLOW THEIR LEAD. DO NOT PROVOKE PROTESTORS – THEY’LL BE WATCHING FOR PROVOCATIONS FROM THE PROTESTORS AND ACTING ON OUR BEHALF
Based on this knowledge and screenshots of violent threats from other Rogue River residents, SOEquity looked for an alternative location to protect the integrity of the event and the safety of its participants. Two of our organizers reached out to a Board Member of the Evans Valley Community Center as we believed their values aligned with those of our event and they had previously hosted events with a similar structure of community dialogue, food and music. Their website states: “Evans Valley Community Association is a community-focused organization dedicated to fostering participation in education, arts, agriculture, recreation, civic and social activities for all ages.”
As the You Are Enough event was educational in nature and promoted civic engagement, the Evans Valley Community Association agreed to host the event. One of our organizers went to the Community Center to pay the rental fee and sign the Facilities Use Agreement on August 27, 2020.
On the morning of August 28, 2020, SOEquity Vice President, Dominique Toyer received an unsolicited phone call from Rogue River Police Chief Whipple asking about the details of the You Are Enough event. Ms. Toyer explained that the event had been moved to a private event space for security reasons.
After confirming we were permitted to use the Evans Valley Community Center, we announced the change in location later in the day on August 28, 2020. Just a few hours after this announcement, one of our organizers received a message from an Evans Valley Community Association Board Member that the Board had voted to revoke SOEquity’s rental agreement. The statement announced the event as cancelled (which the Evans Valley Community Association never confirmed with SOEquity) stating that “this event is not a good fit for the Rogue River/Wimer community.”
With this timeline and the multiple attempts to prevent a community barbecue from happening, the City of Rogue River, its community members and its leaders have sent a clear message: supporting people of color is not permitted in Rogue River.
Since these events, SOEquity organizers have received screenshots of further threats of violence and attempts to publicly identify our leaders to opposition groups for intimidation purposes. All of these screenshots are included in this statement.
The Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity is not a hate group. We are an organization of community members working to improve and educate our community and remove racist systems that allow for discrimination and oppression of community members of color to occur. The fact that we want to engage in a discussion around race is apparently so radical to the residents of Rogue River that they have effectively prevented a family-friendly barbecue from occurring. Make no mistake. The only threats of violence and calls for escalation and unsafe actions were from community members who oppose the very existence of a group dedicated to promoting racial equity. That is racism.
While the community barbecue portion of our You Are Enough event has been postponed, we are still calling on our members and the residents of Rogue River who believe that equality will prevail over hate to gather lawfully and nonviolently in front of Rogue River City Hall at 10:00 am on Saturday, August 29, 2020. We will stand with a clear message: being Black and promoting equality should not be controversial.
Questions can be sent to Kayla Wade, Founder and President of the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity at firstname.lastname@example.org.