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Free's a crowd: Hundreds gather for constitutional rights

The largest crowd of the post-COVID era descended in downtown Medford to praise local officials and the almighty, and protest what they claim to be government overreach at the state level.

With hardly a cloth mask in sight, the lawn of the Jackson County Justice Building was filled with a crowd in the hundreds — and possibly in excess of a thousand people — gathered peacefully but standing much closer than six feet apart as they heard from elected officials, faith leaders and a Republican congressional candidate Saturday during Medford’s Faith and Freedom Rally.

One of the speakers, Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts, told an audience that included her husband and mother that what started as a public health crisis two months ago has shifted to a different problem.

“Basically it comes down to this: are we a free state or are we a police state?” Roberts asked the crowd.

Roberts praised the work the community has done over the past two months to keep Jackson County’s COVID-19 rates remarkably low. Roberts said the county’s 50 confirmed cases is about .002 percent of the population, and all but a fraction have recovered from the virus.

“After 70 days of time with much sacrifice by all of us, the health of our residents of our county has been miraculously preserved, and I’m so grateful to the Lord for that,” Roberts said. “Nobody really knew the severity of the virus but our statistics are amazingly low.”

According to Jackson County Health and Human Services data as of Saturday morning, only 7 of the 50 confirmed cases remain active with the other 43 recovered. There have been no deaths in Jackson County.

“At this point we have gravitated from a public health emergency crisis to an economic and constitutional emergency crisis,” Roberts said.

Roberts was among speakers who claimed at the rally that Governor Kate Brown failed to abide by the Oregon constitution in her emergency order — saying disaster proclamations are limited to 30 days under the state constitution, and require the governor to draw from the state legislature for further authorization. Because the legislature never convened, Roberts claims that the governor’s “never-ending statutory executive orders are null and void.”

“I brought this to my board, but we haven’t proceeded on with it yet,” Roberts said.

Salem lawyer Ray Hacke with the Pacific Justice Institute, a Salem nonprofit law firm he described as focused on “defending religious liberty,” spoke about his lawsuit against the governor filed in Baker County Circuit Court that alleges the governor violated Article X-A, Section 6 of the Oregon constitution, which requires her to get a three-fifths approval from each house after 30 days.

“If Governor Brown can ignore the constitution of the state of Oregon with regard to basic procedure, what is stopping her from ignoring the fundamental rights that you possess as Oregonians?” Hacke called out to the audience.

Rally participant Jedediah McCampbell of Medford, who is also one of the 63 named plaintiffs in the Hacke’s lawsuit against the governor, said he attended the rally out of concern the recent government orders could lead to forced vaccinations, and to stand for businesses put out of work during the shutdown. He touched on the Salem salon that became national news after the state fined the owner $14,000 because she defied the state’s stay-at-home order.

“She was just trying to feed her family,” McCampbell said. “What is she supposed to do?”

Jim Wright, head pastor at Mtn. Church of Medford, said churches give people hope and healing, help people battle suicide and addiction, and bring the community together.

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not essential,” Wright said.

Congressional candidate Jason Atkinson encouraged those in the crowd to pray, vote and also to consider running for elected office because “the country’s only as good as the people that run for office.”

He said running for office isn’t easy, however, using as an example how his two largest opponents spent half a million dollars in Medford advertising this week "to defame my character."

“It’s no fun being negative campaigned against and lied about with Nike money,” Atkinson told the crowd.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Demonstrators gather outside the Jackson County Courthouse for the Faith & Freedom Rally Saturday in downtown Medford. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Demonstrators gather outside the Jackson County Courthouse for the Faith & Freedom Rally Saturday in downtown Medford. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune