SEASIDE — City officials and residents fear a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions planned at the Prom at noon on Saturday could serve as a flashpoint.
Reopen the Coast describes itself as dedicated to “stopping the revocation of individual and business rights in the state of Oregon.” More than 200 people indicated interest in the three-hour gathering led by Haley Adams, an activist in Portland’s alt-right.
Reopen the Coast is “a peaceful event and not a protest,” Adams said. “It’s just a gathering of folks speaking and not creating any harm.”
Others aren’t so sure.
Ties between the organizers and the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer — groups that have been involved in violent clashes in Portland — are strong enough to concern city officials.
“We aren’t Proud Boys nor Patriot Prayer,” Adams said. “We are individuals.”
But, Adams added, she has “nothing bad” to say about the Proud Boys or Patriot Prayer.
“It’s definitely on our radar,” Jon Rahl, Seaside’s public information officer, said.
Clatsop County Sheriff Matt Phillips said the sheriff’s office is paying attention to the demonstration and that he has been in communication with Seaside Police Chief Dave Ham.
Phillips said the county has partnerships with other sheriff’s offices that can come and assist if needed. “Sheriff offices work very well and cooperatively around the state to support each other in a number of functions, and this would be one of them,” he said.
The local Facebook group, Seaside OR Reopening Discussion, reposted the event invitation, to a clamor of remarks.
David Posalski, the administrator of the Facebook group, said the group has no affiliation with Reopen the Coast, and he asked organizers to cancel the event.
“They have zero reason to be in our community,” Jimmy Griffin, of Seaside Brewing Co., said of the organizers. “We don’t need these people coming into our community lecturing us on our First and Second amendment rights. They’re not contributing one positive thing to what we’re doing here. They’re just here hoping to cause chaos like they do everywhere else.”
Portland resident and co-organizer Kareem Jamahl Patton said he was “fed up” with Gov. Kate Brown’s response to the pandemic. “Do you really think shutting down their economy helps the state of Oregon as a whole? I’m not convinced,” he said.
Patton said the lockdown restricts beach access to those who own homes on the coast. “Literally only very wealthy people are allowed to visit the beach,” he said.
Astoria resident Miles Rudduck, who joined in a Seaside beach closure protest in April, said the effects of the lockdown outweigh the risk of the virus’s spread.
“I’d say you’re risking your life by not getting out and getting vitamin D,” Rudduck said. “You’re risking your life by not getting out and enjoying yourself emotionally. I would say that for me to get out, if I do an extra trip to the store and spend a little bit of money, I might be saving one of my friends from losing his business.”
People are going to die “no matter what,” Rudduck said. “Staying home and watching this happen is much worse than getting out and living their lives.”
The City Council was expected to discuss reopening the beach on Monday night. Will participants at the demonstration violate city orders if the beach remains closed on Saturday?
“That is something that we will probably see as it plays out live,” Rudduck said. “I think these things kind of unfold as they unfold.”
Griffin said Seaside “literally needs to ignore these people. Let them come out and film each other giving each other coronavirus. We need to stay home and let this pack of screaming seagulls tear each other apart.”