I was already deeply irritated at the Salem Police Department, after learning that they stood by and did nothing on May 1 while armed members of the Proud Boys right-wing militia group forced people they didn't like to leave the public Riverfront Park, harassed journalists, and reportedly beat up someone who was taking a photo of them.
(See my previous post, "Salem police sit by as Proud Boys take over Riverfront Park.")
Now I've even more irritated at the Police Department after reading their attempt to make it seem like they did everything right and nothing wrong as the Proud Boys provided "security" at a gun rights rally that lacked a permit, so had no right to exclude either citizens or journalists from the rally area.
Here's the self-serving message from the Police Department that was released today. My comments and observations are interspersed in red.
Also, the Salem Reporter has a story out today, "Salem leaders say they're constrained by the Constitution when handling far-right events."
As noted above, the headline is accurate, but the sentiment is a bunch of crap. People understand the Constitution. Free speech and carrying a gun isn't the issue here.
The issue is that a violent extremist group, the Proud Boys, were allowed to cause trouble at the gun rights rally with no attempt by the Salem Police Department to protect the rights of journalists, citizens watching the rally, and by one account, a person who took a photo of Proud Boys and was then beaten by them.
Here's an excerpt from the story.
Margosian, 78, sat down at the amphitheater to listen to the event’s speakers. He said 15 minutes later he was accosted by four men wearing Proud Boys attire, black shirts with a yellow “PB” on the chest and armed with handguns.
“They came and sat down next to me and said, ‘We’re going to escort you out of here. You cannot stay any longer,’” he said.
Margosian said he asked what would happen if he didn’t leave.
He recalled one of the men saying something to the effect of, “You can do it your way, or we can do it ours.”
Margosian took that to mean he would be assaulted if he didn’t leave.
He left the park feeling angry and “kind of a hopeless feeling.”
“Angry at City of Salem for allowing things to get to this point. Angry that people had kicked me out of my own city park,” he said.
As of Monday afternoon, Margosian said he hadn't pressed charges but planned to.
Margosian has said that the Proud Boy who told him he had to leave is the same man I featured in a screenshot of a video made by another person forced to leave the park by Proud Boys.
He should be pretty damn easy to find, since he wasn't wearing a face covering. Hopefully if Margosian does file a complaint, the Salem Police Department will locate this guy and hold him accountable for what he did.
Lastly, I found a quote from a Police Department spokesperson, Lt. Treven Upkes, in a Statesman Journal story, "Salem police respond to complaints of inaction at Riverfront Park Second Amendment rally," way off-base.
I want Police Chief Womack to confirm that it is department policy that telling people to leave a public park is perfectly fine. If this is true, that policy needs to change. Excerpt from the story:
Community members expressed concern the Police Department was showing favoritism by not having a heavy presence at the rally.
Those concerns were further compounded by rumors that the Proud Boys' security teams were telling people to leave, escorting people out of the public park and had even assaulted someone for taking photos of the event.
...Upkes also pointed to the nuance of whether escorting people out of the park was illegal. Simply telling someone to leave the public area — and even walking with them — isn't necessarily a crime. But pairing that order with the threat of violence, menacing or harassment is, he said.