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Marching in Roseburg

Donna Nelson
Occupy events at Roseburg/photo by Barbara Rainey

The Occupy movement has spread to some small and conservative communities. A report from blogger Barrett Rainey, who lives in Roseburg, Oregon, and reports on activities there. Cross-posted from Rainey’s Second Thoughts blog.

Well, I was wrong. Our little right-leaning community here in the forests of Southwest Oregon really did try its hand at the “Occupy” demonstrations last Saturday. I’d previously said it likely wouldn’t happen here where all things political list to starboard. More of a sharp slant, actually.

A few more than 100 folks from seniors to toddlers gathered at the Douglas County Courthouse, then marched across town to the BLM offices for another round of speech-making and display of signs. They picked the BLM, I guess, as the local representative of federal government. The only local fed site larger is the V.A. Hospital campus and who wants to picket a hospital where some of your friends are? And where you may end up?

The kids at the local almost-daily paper duly recorded the thoughts of a few of the participants and published several pictures. But, as usual, there was more to the story that escaped them. First, a little history.

A few months ago, a dozen or so mostly seniors – mostly Democrats – gathered in a local park to sit at tables and talk politics. And grandkids and the price of gas and other subversive things. Soon they were confronted by mostly male – and completely right wing representatives – with nasty signs and nasty, confrontational words. And a fella who shot a video – of what to normal folks would be an embarrassment – to post on a local fringe website.

When the Dems left the park to reconvene at a private residence, the nut jobs followed, tried to trespass, were turned away and settled for blocking the driveway for an hour or two. For the next several weeks the screwballs were roundly chastised by the local, literate citizenry in letters to the editor.

O.K., back to this weekend’s “Occupy” day. The kids at the almost-daily missed – or deliberately avoided mentioning – the collection of some of these same righties standing – where else – on the fringes. One, who likes to think of himself as the epicenter of all-things right locally – was taking pictures of individuals and making a written list of the names of those he knew. He even tried to bait a few passers by, challenging their right to entitlement programs or their “socialist” demonstration. Nobody bit.

Another of his fringy cohorts had a video camera. At first, he stayed back and shot from a distance. Then, when no one seemed to notice, he moved into the crowd and got closeups of faces while his wife and small dog stood by. I’d hazard a guess his electronic handiwork will appear on the nut-page.
Several others from the previous park confrontation leaned on parking meters and pointed, laughed and boosted each other’s egos as they made light of the demonstrators in front of them. They, too, tried in vain to get into “conversations” with attendees as they moved to the street to march. The young fella who was heading up the day’s events patiently talked to them for a few minutes then, realizing explanations were not what the interlopers wanted, he rejoined the street crowd.

The right wing guys were at least smart enough not to do anything to call overt attention to themselves, realizing they’d land back in the bad graces of even the more responsible, strongly conservative local element. After boosting each others testosterone levels, they got in their SUVs and pickups and headed down the street.

So much for them. Back to the marchers. It was heartening to see democracy in action as they expressed their views. All the signs were personal and handmade, including two that caught my attention for color, neatness and simplicity. A couple of elementary teachers I later learned.

There were students, teachers, a firefighter I recognized, some local business people, a retired minister and family, an elderly lady on oxygen, some veterans, some unemployed, some on crutches or canes; just plain folk. No political affiliations obvious. I even recognized a couple of Republicans; one with a sign. A well-behaved little guy of about six had a large sign saying he was the future. A few even made up small signs on some blank whiteboard, using markers they brought with them.

Our little whimper for justice was, like nearly all the others now worldwide, a quiet, heartfelt outpouring of people’s concerns: failure to punish bankers and brokers who helped bring us to the edge of our financial cliff; lack of jobs; layoffs; entire subjects eliminated in our school system; planned school closings; organized efforts to make all unions the “bad guys;” and a completely dysfunctional congress ignoring the relentless pounding on the middle class. Pretty much the same messages you see on the network news from New York City, San Francisco, Seattle or elsewhere.

It was a serious gathering. Those few the fringe element tried to bait just kept on walking. People were there to have their little say. And they did. They even picked up all the paper and other leftovers before marching. It was a marvelous display.
You should have been there.

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