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In Salem, Protesters Rally Against COVID-19 Restrictions

Sergio Olmos/OPB

Several hundred people gathered at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem Friday for a rally against the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions and the results of the presidential election. Some in the crowd urged other attendees to take off their masks.

Joey Gibson, founder of the far-right group Patriot Prayer, celebrated a group of mayors who planned to reopen their city economies in direct violation of state restrictions.

“This is the kind of leadership our country needs,” said Gibson, whose group has attracted white supremacists and engaged in violence at other demonstrations.

Incoming Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith compared state health leaders to “the Gestapo” while speaking in front of the Capitol and beneath a banner advertising “Oregon Women for Trump.”

The protesters marched to Mahonia Hall, the governor’s official residence in Salem. Some then returned to the Capitol, where their interactions with police turned increasingly tense. The shouts and chants from the crowd shifted from calls to arrest Gov. Kate Brown to promises to no longer “back the blue” after protesters used what Salem police described as “chemical munitions” against law enforcement, and officers used pepper balls to hold back the crowd. Salem police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and made numerous arrests.

Last month, far-right demonstrators who protested COVID-19 restrictions, the presidential election results and Brown attempted to break into the Capitol during the Legislature’s one-day special session.

Five people were arrested on charges stemming from the special legislative session’s demonstrations.

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