An assortment of Clark County conservatives held court in front of more than 100 people who gathered at Vancouver’s Esther Short Park on Sunday.
The topics were as varied as the dozen figures who spoke during the two-hour event. Freedom and law enforcement were celebrated. COVID-19 restrictions, Antifa, Northwest governors and local politicians were criticized.
Billed as a “Stand Up For the First Amendment” event, the most notable local speaker was Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson.
Gibson opened his remarks by saying some Clark County Republican politicians had backed out of the event when they learned he was going to speak. Patriot Prayer, a Southwest Washington-based conservative group, has been involved in several Portland demonstrations that resulted in violent clashes with Antifa.
“I’m glad they didn’t show up because it’s so important to understand – we can’t rely on politicians,” Gibson said. “We don’t need politicians to fix the problems in this country. In our community, it is us. … You have to take that self-responsibility. You have to identify that if there’s a problem in our community, nobody else is going to take care of it. You have got to take care of it.”
Portland, which has seen more than 130 days of unrest since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police, was held up as an example of what Sunday’s gathering was standing against. Yacolt City Council member Michelle Dawson paid tribute to her friend Aaron “Jay” Danielson, who was killed near a pro-Donald Trump caravan in Portland by an Antifa supporter in August.
Dawson also emphatically supported law enforcement. Her support was mirrored by several “Back the Blue” flags among the crowd.
“As a domestic violence survivor, it’s really disturbing to hear people say ‘defund the police,’” Dawson said. “They have no idea what they’re calling for. Women are going to end up getting hurt.”
Other frequent targets for criticism were Gov. Jay Inslee, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and health department officials who have implemented restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kelly Carroll was criminally charged in June for opening her Battle Ground pet grooming business in defiance of Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. Though the charges were dropped, Carroll spoke Sunday about the stress of that experience.
The final speaker was Philip Anderson, who had his front teeth knocked out by a counterprotester at a San Francisco event he organized to protest social media companies’ policies about censorship. A man was arrested last week and charged with a hate crime for punching Anderson, who is Black.
Anderson, a Texas resident who has been banned from most major social media platforms, said big tech companies should be prosecuted for limiting speech.
“We’re going to fight for our right to free speech,” Anderson said. “We’re going to fight for our right to peacefully protest. We’re going to fight for our right to be online.”