Upcoming political rally causes stir at council meeting

Every Keizer city council meeting provides time for the public to speak to the council about any issue, and on Monday, March 21, a number of local activists and residents took the opportunity to voice their views on the upcoming Reawaken America tour slated for the Keizer Volcanoes stadium on April 1.

Robert Edwards, right, of Salem, joined activists and locals to speak out against the upcoming Reawaken America Tour at Volcanoes Stadium April 1.

The stadium is privately-owned, which means the council has no authority to prevent the event. While most of the speakers acknowledged this, many still want the city to do more to prevent these kinds of events, going forward.

The controversial rally will feature several speakers, including former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and the Mike Lindell, MyPillow CEO. It was originally scheduled for the Deschutes County Fair and Expo Center in Redmond, Ore., but public scrutiny surrounding the promotion of election conspiracies, mandatory mask-wearing, and the identity of the some of the speakers – Flynn was pardoned by former President Trump for giving false information to the FBI – led to the venue change.

The same kind of public scrutiny was on display at the Keizer council meeting’s public testimony on Monday. Some local and tribal activists carried signs reading “I’m white America’s nightmare” and “End racism and white supremacy,” spoke about the Trail of Tears, how racism and white supremacy are impacting their communities, and reminded the council that Keizer “sits on stolen land.”

While the tribal activists framed the issue in terms of racism and white supremacy, other speakers objected to the rally on the basis that it would cause a disruption in the community and possibly violence.

Ron Bersin, Oregon Government Ethics Commission executive director, said the rally had a reputation for violence and voiced displeasure at the lease agreement between the city and Volcanoes owner Jerry Walker.

“I’m really disappointed in the city,” said Bersin. “It seems like no matter who wants to come into the Volcanoes stadium, it’s up to the leasors to decide. So we have no way of stopping, let’s say 5,000 Hell’s Angels … or any other group that, I think, just really isn’t in the Keizer spirit.”

Bersin said he was expecting the police department to be challenged over the two days of the rally. Many other speakers took time to voice similar views for more than an hour at the meeting. Brandon Smith, of Salem, was one of three people who spoke in favor of the rally, objecting to the other speaker’s characterizations of the organizers as racist or violent.