Coos Bay Protest Summation and Reflections
by Kit Liminal
I want to tell you all about Coos Bay. On Tuesday I witnessed community activism at its most personal, its most vulnerable, and its most compassionate. Supporters gathered at Tuesday's City Council meeting to elevate the needs and immediate concerns of minority sub-communities, demanded minority sub-community inclusion in City proclamations relating to racial injustices, and took meaningful steps towards electing new members of City government that would seriously respond to the crises facing the Coos Bay community. Racism is alive in Coos Bay. Among the topics of discussion was the lynching of Alonzo Tucker in Coos Bay at the start of the 20th century, Justice4Saraya, KKK safe havens in neighboring areas still present today, complex socioeconomic issues relating to racism, and recent racist vandalism and assault in the region. It's important to remember the privilege of relative anonymity that comes with activism in a larger town. In Coos Bay, activists are not afforded this security.
On both sides of the skirmish-line, community members addressed their neighbors by name. They know where each other live. They know where each other work, and where their children go to school. The overflowing anger of the counter-protesters felt demonstrably more personal and targeted than I have seen anywhere else. It is unacceptable, although ultimately unsurprising, to hear of the normalization of death threats and implications of violence directed at community organizers, whose objectives benefit not only those whose lives are directly impacted by systemic racism but the community as a whole. In many instances, it became clear that the counter-protesters were largely informed by partisan media or outright conspiracy theories, often referring to a faceless "Antifa" roaming the countryside with intent to destroy their way of life. Many voiced these concerns but were left unable to rationalize their anger when it was explained that "Antifa" literally just means someone who is "anti-fascist" - a sentiment that some of the counter-protesters seemed to relate to (particularly relevant to the "anti-fascist" nature of the 2nd Amendment).
As community members spoke with one another, a portion of the counter-protesters became confused by their own actions, once it was clear that their behavior would not be empowered by violent reactions. Some counter-protesters began to call each other out on hateful speech, some even shifting their positions to say they were there to protect our 1st Amendment rights. Protesters and remaining counter-protesters mostly agreed that the City government was not acting in anyone's interest, and that they would be better off holding their own unofficial "community council meeting"---tentatively scheduled for Friday at 6 PM—to continue to discuss issues relevant to all parties in a more casual setting.
Solidarity and love