By Kamryn Stringfield
What happens in rural Coos County, more than 100 miles away from Eugene, may not seem very important to Eugene politics. However, the happenings in the rural areas of the state that surround our metropolitan area inherently have an effect, both direct and indirect, on our politics and our life.
I just moved to Eugene from having spent five years in Coos Bay. I was a leading activist there and attended every major event, protest, commemoration, city council meeting and more while there. I took up a specific struggle against fascist forces there because I could see that they were rising and planning to try taking power.
I had to move unexpectedly to Eugene last summer, but I’ve been keeping track of what’s going on. Rodney Taylor, who participated in the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, has won a seat on the Coos County Board of Commissioners. He now plans to institute his Christian nationalist, anti-homeless, anti-LGBT+, anti-labor agenda, which is based on decoupling from the state and federal funds, milking Coos County of its natural resources and giving into all the chauvinist, backwards sentiments which fester in rural southern Oregon.
Coos Bay had a few progressive moments in the last couple years. There has been no fundamental change for any oppressed community, or for the working class of Coos Bay at large, but the precedent had been set to actually move forward with progress in Coos Bay. They recognized and memorialized the lynching of Alonzo Tucker more than 100 years ago, Oregon’s supposed only lynching of a Black man (although another Black man, Timothy Pettis, was also murdered in Coos Bay 100 years ago and hasn’t been given the same recognition), and they finally recognized LGBT+ pride month and allowed a pride flag to be flown at the boardwalk.
It seemed then that Coos Bay may be progressing, albeit slowly, and the regressive forces were losing. However, it seems the city just gives into whoever is the loudest. When the protests fragmented and burnt out in late 2020, and activists left the progressive circles based on infantile petty drama and a lack of true organization or leadership, the only forces in Coos Bay that remained active were the fascist forces.
They pushed against the recognition of racist history. They pushed against Coos County’s mask mandates. They pushed against the LGBT+ pride flag being flown. The city just gave into their push against the pride flag policy and took up the position that they would not approve the flags anymore because it was a “divisive” issue.
It wasn’t divisive when it was brought forward or when it was approved and flown. It was only “divisive” when the hateful forces of the county made an issue of it and said all flags had to be flown.
With fascists winning in Coos County and the governments there capitulating to them, who will stop them? Who will stop the rising fascist tide in Coos County from spreading to Florence, Cottage Grove, Springfield… Time to realize politics in Coos County matters to us in Eugene.
The recruitment for the fascists that clash in our streets with protesters or attack our businesses that support oppressed communities like Old Nick’s Pub happens in rural areas like Coos County. Tossing political action in our surrounding rural areas aside as many activists did in 2020, saying “those places will never change” just aids the fascist forces there, and they’ll then come here, and they’ll hurt us.
Coos County has a history of racism and hate. From Tucker’s lynching to Pettis’ murder, to the age of Charles Hall and the Klu Klux Klan in Marshfield, to the white separatist Northwest Territorial Imperative and Robert Miles’ attempted move to Coos Bay, to the secessionist movements like the state of Jefferson, to the rhetoric and actions of people like Commissioner Rodney Taylor and right-wing talk radio host Robert Taylor, Coos County is very ripe for a fascist movement.
That fascist movement, if it is allowed to grow and establish itself, will attack us here in Eugene and along the I-5 corridor. We have to fight back against it by organizing a united front against it, both here in Eugene and in rural Coos County. Stop Oregonian fascism in its tracks.