Thursday, November 3, 2005
August 24, 2005
A sense of unease permeated Cascade Locks on Saturday when a white supremacist rally took place at the eastern edge of the city. “This town is full of people from all over the world and all different nationalities — we just shouldn’t have hate groups here,” said resident Shannon Holmes.
The community almost had a sense of being under martial law as patrol cars from four agencies cruised up and down WaNaPa Street. Everywhere a supremacist went, a Hood River County Sheriff Deputy, Oregon State Trooper, U.S. Forest Service officer or Inter-Tribal Fisheries Enforcement Officer was not far behind.
City officials kept teenagers off the street during Aryan Fest 2005 by extending the hours of their regular Saturday activity program. The lure to keep adolescents indoors was a drawing for an X-Box videogame system, a prize won by Ryan Belles, 12.
The highly visible police presence did not appear to upset the populace — in fact most citizens seemed relieved to have added protection.
“If the police hadn’t been there, I’m certain there could have been some violence,” said Cascade Locks Port Director Chuck Daughtry.
Conversely, Sheriff Joe Wampler blocked angry protesters, media and curiosity seekers from accessing the industrial park where the private rally was taking place. With irate citizens and about 80 supremacists in close proximity, he felt the setting was ripe for a riot.
“There was just such a big intimidation factor here. We knew that, if there were a confrontation from either side, it was going to bring a quicker reaction than normal,” said Wampler.
However, not everyone in Cascade Locks voiced strong opinions about the event. Luci Vandermoss, a Native American with Hispanic grandchildren, said as long as the rally wasn’t held “in her backyard” she really didn’t mind it taking place.
“I think everybody has the right to believe in what they want to believe in,” she said.
The price tag to involve 25 officers in the field operation was estimated by Wampler at about $10,000. However, he did not feel there was any other option to ensure public safety.
“From our standpoint, the time, trouble and money was well worth it,” he said.
As a result of his vigilance, only two arrests were made during the rally — and neither involved a supremacist. Cascade Locks City Councilor Rob Brostoff, 63, was cited for DUII after cruising by the site (see story this page). And James Stolhand, 50, of Hood River was jailed on a charge of disorderly conduct. According to reports, he was intoxicated and attempted to pick a fight with Aryan Fest security guards. He also allegedly ignored numerous warnings not to stand in the roadway to stop departing vehicles.
Wampler allowed two separate groups of protesters, made up of about 15 people each, to express their viewpoints at different times of the day. However, he stopped them from coming any closer than 75 yards from the festival’s security checkpoint.
“This scenario was similar to a controlled burn in the height of fire season. We had to put together the resources to keep the fuels under control,” Wampler said.
Daughtry now wants to get an opinion from Attorney General Hardy Meyers on the complex issue. He would like to know if the port can tighten the rules on its property rental contracts. Or at least make the organizers of a controversial event pick up the tab for security needs.
Under the port’s current policy, Daughtry was warned by three different attorneys not to block Aryan Fest. He was advised that it was the constitutional right of the group to gather and the port could not discriminate against any political beliefs. If the port had chosen that path, Daughtry said the agency faced being denied liability coverage from its insurance carrier.
He did admit that Randal Krager, organizer of Aryan Fest, was not completely forthcoming about its nature and purpose. Port officials were told only that Afrikaner Charities was staging a fund-raiser for poor farmers in South Africa. Once the port learned the gathering would be a supremacist rally, it was moved out of the Port Marine Park to avoid any potential conflicts with other recreationists. The agency also provided food and beverages to both the law enforcement officials and protesters.
“I’m thinking that we need a legal task force to see if we can maybe protect ourselves better in the future. What part of the First Amendment do we not honor? Who decides which group does and doesn’t have that privilege?” asked Daughtry.
He is also conferring with city officials about organizing a musical concert to promote cultural diversity. Daughtry would like to see the proceeds from that performance given to a group that opposes racism.
“We are definitely going to pursue that to heal the community and restore its image. We want people to know that beliefs about separatism don’t represent our viewpoint,” Daughtry said.
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