About a week ago in this space, I told you of a confrontation in our little southern Oregon community of some 21,000. It was a shameful affair wherein a few laws were likely broken and constitutional rights were certainly denied. I thought I’d update you on what’s happened since. Nothing.

On that warm Sunday afternoon in mid-July, a group of some 16 mostly senior citizens got together in a large county park to sit at a couple of tables, enjoy the weather and each other’s company, and chat among themselves. If there was any political connection, apparently several of the group had membership in MoveOn.org, a liberal-leaning national organization. So most of the folks there were probably Democrats by voter registration. There they were. No signs. No flags. Just people sitting at tables under the trees.

Shortly, the senior gathering of 16 was confronted by another group more than twice its size, waving American and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and carrying signs reading “Marxists,” “Socialists,” “Communists” and – well, you get the idea. And the 35 or so – some in camouflage clothing – were loud and persistent in their taunting. They brought a video camera to record their actions for posterity. And their own egos.

When it became apparent the newcomers wouldn’t leave, the seniors packed up and drove to a private home. The gang of 35 followed, tried to drive up the driveway to the private home, were told to leave but decided to block the end of that driveway for over an hour.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s office was called on 9-1-1. An hour-and-a-half later, a deputy called back to say things had been busy. He told those being denied their freedoms they should come to the office Monday to file a complaint. An hour-and-a-half!

O.K., let’s see what we’ve got here. While I’m no attorney, it would seem the smaller, older group was made up of people who were denied the right of peaceful assembly, the right of free speech, illegally forced off public property by threats and taunts, pursued on a public highway for no legitimate reason and improperly detained by blockade in a private home. It would also seem those senior, private citizens were unreasonably harassed and denied their civil rights. You could also throw in disturbing the peace. There’s also obviously threatening behavior that should have drawn a quick response from law enforcement types for which these people pay taxes.

And it’s all on video in the public domain.

We are now a week later. No comment from Sheriff John Hanlin. No comment from County Prosecutor Rick Wesenberg. Nothing from the police. No comment from the public parks department. Nothing from nobody.

The leader of the thugs – who noted at the time at least his folks “didn’t bring any guns” – is well-known around here. Known for some civic involvement and for politically being to the right of Attila The Hun. If there’s right wing activity, he’s likely in the middle of it. Or an instigator. Last time he ran for something he got about 18% of the vote.

Our corner of Oregon is uncommonly conservative compared to the rest of the state. You’d expect the Tea Party would be big here. It’s not. Almost non-existent in fact. Instead, what we have is a collection of splinter groups like the one(s) that rousted the seniors, depriving them of their constitutional rights. The spokesman for the fringe in this latest incident says he heads something called “Douglas County Americans For Prosperity.” Whatever the Hell that is.

I realize the conservative nature of most of my neighbors. County voter registration is about 60-40 favoring Republicans. Nearly all county office holders are of that party. Including the sheriff and prosecutor.

But what happened in the park and at a private home deserve significant law enforcement and legal followup regardless of any office holder’s political affiliations. Those who forced citizens out of a public park and staged a confrontation at a private home should not be allowed to get away with any of this. There is ample evidence – accompanied by video now on the Internet – that laws were broken, people were harassed and threatened for no reason and denied their guaranteed rights of peaceful assembly and free speech.

If law enforcement and other court officers in Douglas County, Oregon, let this slide – as it appears all are willing to do – then those we’ve elected to protect us may not be fulfilling the responsibilities they swore to undertake.

Even if you and I weren’t in the park that Sunday – or in that home – or on the calling end of that 9-1-1 plea for help – all of us have a stake in this. It’s our rights being challenged. Nothing less. All of us.

Comments are closed.