Keizer Police fire back after accusations of bias

Demonstrators from an anti-LGBTQ+ group turned out to disrupt Keizer’s first-ever Pride Fair in June of last year. After being confronted by attendees and urged by the police to leave the group departed and did not return. (Photo submitted by CYNDI SWANEY)

Claire Snyder is the organizer behind Keizer’s Pride Fair, which was held for the first time last year at Chalmers Jones Park, June 12. In an interview with KOIN 6 News last week, she announced this year’s event would be cancelled due to safety concerns – of particular interest to Keizer Police were her public comments about how the department responded to an anti-LGBTQ group who disrupted last year’s fair.

Snyder alleged in her interview that certain Keizer police officers told the violent anti-LGBTQ activists they personally supported their point-of-view as they escorted them away from the fair, and that not enough has been done since to prevent a repeat of last year’s disruption.

It wasn’t just the police that Snyder took aim at, either. She told KOIN 6 that some of the organizers behind the controversial Reawaken America Tour at Volcanoes Stadium in March were also invited to the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, May 5.

According to Keizertimes reporting from June 20, 2021, Keizer Police were summoned after about 20 minutes of escalating shouting, pushing and shoving – largely by the anti-LGBTQ group who carried menacing signs and hurled hateful slurs. Unlawful use of mace and a theft were reported at the time, but the police were able to disperse the out-of-town agitators without any further violence.

A cancellation notice posted online at echoes Snyder’s comments to KOIN 6, and draws a connection between last year’s disruption and the controversial rally.

“Not months ago, right wing extremists, white supremacists, and bigoted groups (listed as “The Reawaken America Tour”) who echo the anti-queer rhetoric of last year’s intruders were welcomed into Keizer,” reads the Pride Fair cancellation announcement. “Groups known for harmful and exclusionary religious practices were not only present, but have since been invited to the Mayor’s prayer breakfast.”

Mayor Cathy Clark, who attended the fair in June, said her hands were tied with regard to the Volcanoes Stadium hosting the controversial rally and the city has to follow the law. Additionally, she told KOIN 6 that Snyder had commended the police after the June disruption.

Lt. Trevor Wenning of Keizer Police’s Support Division and KPD’s public information officer, said police were called to the scene by the anti-LGBTQ activists because one of their group had been pepper-sprayed by a fair attendee.

Wenning cited video and audio recordings of the following City Council meeting on June 21, where several local activists connected with the Pride Fair, such as Ramiro Navarro, Councilor Roland Hererra – and Snyder herself – either spoke in praise of the police response or did not mention any complaints about individual officer conduct or the pepper-spraying incident.

“Ms. Snyder spoke at the council meeting but made no reference to the Pride event or the illegal actions perpetrated by members of her gathering,” said Wenning.

As for Snyder’s allegations surrounding the Reawaken America Tour, Wenning said the department was careful to not position themselves in favor or against anyone, however he feels the department went out of their way to demonstrate support for local community leaders.

“Ms. Snyder has previously said the police are biased and make the protestors feel unsafe,” he said. “Chief John Teague said he would stand with her [at the Reawaken America Tour protest] so she could point out the biased actions of the police and that he would put a stop to it – she said she wasn’t planning to attend, after all.”

He admits that Keizer police officers are not infallible, but said there is no reason to think any group would be unsafe at a protest or gathering here.

“We’ve provided little, if any, substantive reason for any group to think the police department won’t ensure they’re able to freely and safely gather here in Keizer,” he said.

Keizertimes reached out to Claire Snyder for comment, but at the time of printing has received no reply.