July 22, 2024

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River Road board votes to condemn protester behavior at Nov. 30 clinic

7 min read
Inset: An anti-vax protester carries the 'Don't Tread On Me' flag. The River Road Community Organization this month discussed its response to the protest at Howard Elementary on Nov. 30., 2021.

Inset: An anti-vax protester carries the 'Don't Tread On Me' flag. The River Road Community Organization this month discussed its response to the protest at Howard Elementary on Nov. 30., 2021.

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After anti-vax activists disrupted a local clinic, Eugene’s River Road neighborhood considered its response. Our report starts with comment to the Lane County Commissioners on November 30th, the day of the Howard Elementary vaccine clinic.

[00:00:14] Lane County: Our next speaker is Harry Sanger. I will unmute your microphone and you may begin your public comments.

[00:00:19] Harry Sanger: Thank you. Yes, there is a parent information session planned for today’s Young Child Genetic Therapy Clinic, which is a more honest label since the shots being given aren’t actually vaccines that confer immunity. Since this is not a vaccine, it doesn’t make sense to call clinic opponents anti-vax. Something like ‘Informed Consent Matters’ might be a better label. I encourage anyone listening to show up today at Howard Elementary at 4:30 PM to see why parents in the community are concerned and hold dialogue, instead of making assumptions.

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[00:00:47] John Q: Harry said the human rights of the unvaccinated are threatened by mandates, and by the state’s forthcoming “Smart Health Card.”

[00:00:54] Harry Sanger: We want to present a side of the narrative that has been consistently suppressed and falsely labeled as misinformation.

[00:00:59] John Q: He noted a datatase of adverse vaccine reactions, and concluded.

[00:01:03] Harry Sanger: Please encourage Lane County Sheriff to stand down and not suppress free speech. The only conflict that will be created will come from the authorities standing between concerned citizens and the public officials who don’t want the people’s voices to be heard.

[00:01:15] John Q: What subsequently happened at Howard Elementary became the main topic this month in River Road. Offering public comment, Carleen Reilly.

[00:01:23] Carleen Reilly: I am astounded by the protest of the children’s vaccine clinic at Howard Elementary on November 30th. Every parent has the right to choose healthcare to protect their children, their family, and the community. I was reared with the maxim ‘Live and let live.’ People may believe anything they like and do what they want in their own household, but they do not have the right to interfere with others’ beliefs and actions. Shouting at parents and children who are on the way to be vaccinated against COVID is unacceptable.

[00:01:56] Some of the protesters at Howard Elementary weren’t even from our neighborhood. Because of this protest, 4J School Board has discontinued any vaccination clinics on school district premises. This is a great hindrance to families who want to take advantage of convenient local community clinics.

[00:02:15] This was not a peaceful protest. It was led by an RRCO board member who went to the county commissioners and invited people to come to our neighborhood. It is unacceptable to me that a member of the RRCO board be allowed to continue in this role. He does not represent community values of providing a safe, healthy environment for raising a family. Angry protests stir discontentment and make life unstable in our community. I want our neighborhood to be well-respected, well-informed, and being known as respectful and caring for others.

[00:02:53] Pat Reilly: RRCO board member Harry Sanger and his supporters would have us believe that any disagreement with their anti-vax rhetoric is a restriction on their freedom of speech. Such is not the case as their conduct evolved into verbal abuse, physical intimidation, and ultimately coercion of parents who chose to have their children vaccinated. Freedom does not give them license to disrespect others’ access to a public event on public property.

[00:03:21] Harry has not been censored by RRCO. He spoke at a recent general meeting and… he is free to express his views to anyone who cares to listen.

[00:03:30] John Q: Addressing Harry directly later in the meeting, Dan Isaacson.

[00:03:34] Dan Isaacson: My issue with this entire process is not being anti-vax or pro-vax or whether you were there or not. It’s a fact that when you’re serving as a board member, you’re acting as a de facto representative of the board. So I testify before City Council and I testify in a variety of other functions. The first thing that comes out of my mouth, when I say, ‘I’m an RRCO board member, I’m a planning commissioner,’ whatever it is, I am not speaking on their behalf. I’m speaking only for myself. You didn’t do that… because I had several folks who asked me, ‘Is that what RRCO feels?’ Because they got the impression, that’s it.

[00:04:08] …As a next step, I think it would be wise for us as a board to come out with specific language that we agree upon to say in front of any elected body before we testify, so that we know, and the community knows, that you’re speaking on your own behalf and not others’.

[00:04:24] John Q: The executive board hashed out its public statement and put it to a vote.

[00:04:30] Joshua Kielas: The RRCO executive board makes a public statement, opposing the behaviors exhibited by the protesters who intimidated people attempting to access public health at the Howard Elementary vaccination clinic on November 30th.

[00:04:43] We especially condemn those who verbally assaulted parents in the presence of their children. And we are saddened to learn that those behaviors have moved to the 4 J School Board to cancel all future school site clinics, limiting parents and children neighborhood access to important health care.

[00:05:00] The behaviors exhibited by the protesters do not represent RRCO’s values of building community safety and trust. This statement shall be sent to 4J School Board, Eugene City Council, and Lane County Board of Commissioners in order to clarify our official position.

[00:05:17] Harry Sanger: The statement as written seems very political to me in that the River Road Community Organization is taking a political stance on vaccinations. And I can tell you, there are a number of people in our neighborhood that disagree with that viewpoint. And I think that continuing to make political statements will alienate some of our neighbors.

[00:05:43] And I would highlight that should this pass, there is a term in our charter that provides the minority opinion to also submit verbiage to the city. At the end of article five, it says if there is a minority position on the issue represented by at least one third of those voting, this shall also be presented.

[00:06:03] John Q: Harry said he has considered resigning.

[00:06:06] Harry Sanger: I do not feel like a member of this community. I feel cast out and have given serious consideration to resigning in light of the negative and dismissive attitude displayed by numerous RRCO board members during recent communications … I joined RRCO because I wanted to help foster a positive environment to raise my children and that was representative of the diversity of beliefs. I have met a number of neighbors that don’t feel represented by RRCO, that they don’t belong because their politics don’t mirror the majority opinion. There are concerns being raised by a minority in our neighborhood. Should we not hear those concerns that aren’t represented by the majority opinion?

[00:06:40] Clare Strawn: The discussion here is not about the politics of vaccines. The discussion is about the impact of the action on people’s rights to access public health. And that is not a political discussion. That’s a consequence of behavior.

[00:06:58] Joshua Kielas: I definitely don’t feel like this is a political statement. We clearly are calling out the behaviors exhibited where we’re talking about people intimidating people who are just trying to bring their kids in for vaccines. And I don’t, yeah, I just don’t, I’m not seeing the political nature of that.

[00:07:17] Dan Isaacson: At some point you have to just draw a line and say, you’re free to believe whatever you want, but you’re not free to harm other people’s ability to have their beliefs or take care of their public health or their children.

[00:07:28] Jon Belcher: I agree with what everybody has said, that this totally gets away from anything but behaviors. And frankly, I think the behaviors were reprehensible. I haven’t seen children being treated this way since the Sixties, when people were yelling at kids who were going to school because they happened to be Black. To me, this is equivalent and that is reprehensible. And I believe the motion speaks to the behavior and not the political belief.

[00:07:57] John Q: Just past the 90 minute mark, the board voted on the statement.

[00:08:03] Clare Strawn: So all in favor of that, raise your hand. … 1 2 3 4 5 6 okay. Six yes, two no.

[00:08:11] Jon Belcher: So the vote is six to two to send the motion to the public agencies as amended.

[00:08:18] John Q: The meeting wrapped up well past the two-hour mark.

[00:08:21] Harry Sanger: So I’d just like to thank everybody for hearing our discussion earlier and letting all sides give their (say).

[00:08:29] Jan Spencer: I thought we managed that pretty well, actually.

[00:08:33] Jon Belcher: I don’t agree, but we got through it. We got to find a better way to deal with these issues, people. That’s my perspective. 

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