Politics are once again taking over the airwaves of television and constantly being thrown onto Facebook timelines by that passionate person you kind-of know from high school. One could argue that campaigning and debating at this caliber hasn’t been seen since Obama first ran for office in 2009. The state of Oregon has been been in full political mode for awhile now and when presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders spoke in Portland back in August, a crowd of 28,000 showed up to listen.
Last night’s democratic debate brought that same power and had people spilling into the streets yelling “feel the bern” after watching the event at local restaurants and bars in downtown Ashland.
Political topics seem to be hot as ever and citizens in the valley are making their stances known. A protest of a protest drew large numbers last Saturday afternoon as two groups of people lined South Ivy street in Medford. The ones standing in front of the Medford police station called the event “Back the Blue” and said they were there to stand with the local law enforcement.
However, the group that was set up opposite them rallied together under the assumption the “Back the Blue” group was actually forming an anti-Islamic gathering. Oregon Action was the instigator for bringing together community members who wanted to show their city’s acceptance, but claim that the group on the other street re-branded their rally when they received pressure from the community.
Patrick Lieser who organized the “Back the Blue”, and happens to be a former professional wrestler, claims that there never was any affiliation to the group Global Rally for Humanity, which helped organize rallies across the country with anti-Islamic messages on Saturday and was previously believed to have set up the Medford gathering although it has been reported that their original permit application had a logo of the Global Rally for Humanity.
“We are here as a community to stand together, Leiser stated, “Law enforcement and first responders are under attack now more than ever and we want to show that we are grateful for what they do.”
The hundred plus activists who showed up to protest what they thought would be an anti-Islamic rally ranged from young families to gray haired elders. “I’m here to support the idea that this community believes in equality,“ said one of the crowd members, Linda Torrel.
Medford police officers were on the scene but appeared to be in a relaxed state as both sides chanted positive messages and the only loud noises came from honking cars passing by.
When asked about peace and equality, Lieser told NBC 5 that “We are not anti- anything, we are anti-hate, and pro-law enforcement.”
In fact, only one person was in attendance on Saturday to share their Islamophobia. The retired man who chose not to give his name, stood on the same side as the “Back the Blue” group but about 100 feet away and was under the impression that he was attending an anti-Islamic rally until he got there and saw a different theme.
Bearing a homemade sign that displayed anti-Islamic messages that ranged from interpretations of the Quran to claims that Chris Harper Mercer was connected to Islam via Myspace ,the lone man stood in solitary. Allegedly, the “Back the Blue” group had asked him to move away from them when he showed up at 9:00am.
Only a few hours after all the demonstrating began, both sides cleared out in different directions. However, just down S. Ivy street another group was demonstrating their support for the de-funding of Planned Parenthood. Some bore signs of religious statements while others said that it was strictly a matter of inefficient tax allocation.
Patrick Leiser and his wife were also in attendance at the second rally but had swapped their matching American flags for signs condemning Planned Parenthood which is a non-profit who dispenses contraception and low cost medical care for women. Aside from the Leisers, the only other people to double dip in the rallies were college students from Oregon State University. One of them dressed in robes with fake facial hair held a sign that said, “Jesus loves Planned Parenthood”
After the first hyped up event had evaporated, they made their way down the street and by chance, come across the second rally. “We came because we wanted to protest the anti-Muslim gathering but it cleared out pretty quick,” said one of the visitors, “We also are going to visit the new In-and-Out.