Controversial Reawaken America Tour rally to be held at Keizer Volcanoes stadium

Volcanoes Stadium is pictured in Keizer, Oregon, on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. The stadium has found other uses with season canceled; it recently was the location of a weekend community market.

Volcanoes Stadium is pictured in Keizer, Oregon, on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. The stadium has found other uses with season canceled; it recently was the location of a weekend community market.

A controversial rally featuring election conspiracy theorists and prominent right-wing figures pardoned by former President Donald Trump is coming to Keizer’s Volcano Stadium Friday and Saturday.

The announcement, made by leaders at The River Church on Portland Road in Salem, comes months after public scrutiny in Redmond led organizers to cancel the rally scheduled to be held at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center on April 1-2.

The event drew controversy after the Bend Bulletin reported an event planner stated in an email that they had gotten personal assurance from Republican Deschutes County commissioners that the state’s mask mandate wouldn’t be enforced.

County officials deny that occurred, according to the Bulletin, and the county later asked event organizers to sign a contract addendum agreeing to follow the mandate.

The event in Redmond was scrapped.

Leaders with The River Church then reached out to the organizer of the event, podcaster Clay Clark, and offered to host the rally in Salem, according to reporting from the Bend Bulletin.

Volcanoes Stadium was built in 1997 on land owned by the City of Keizer. Keizer Volcanoes owner Jerry Walker paid for the stadium construction and entered into a contract with the city to lease the site.

According to the KeizerTimes, the Volcanoes renewed their contract in 2015 for another 39 years.

The city leases the stadium to Salem-Keizer Sports Enterprises, LLC. Keizer interim City Manager Wes Hare said the city has no role in deciding what events are held at the stadium.

“The lease specifically allows entertainment and other events typically held at multi-purpose stadiums,” he said.

On the church’s Lunch Hour of Power on Facebook, River Church Pastor Lew Wootan said the event was moved to the stadium following “overwhelming demand” for more space.

Instead of the 2,500 tickets initially announced, there were 4,000 tickets for sale at $250 a pop. However some were offered for significantly less, or even free.

On the Facebook video, Wootan said tickets would be available at a reduced price for those who could not afford to go otherwise. The Reawaken website lists the event in Salem as being 99% sold out.

Lew Wootan, pastor of The River Church in Salem, speaks at a rally at the Oregon Capitol to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

Lew Wootan, pastor of The River Church in Salem, speaks at a rally at the Oregon Capitol to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

The event at other locations has focused on support for former President Donald Trump, as well as false allegations surrounding the presidential election and COVID-19.

Speakers advertised at the event include:

  • Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor to Trump. Flynn pleaded guilty to a felony for making false statements to the FBI about an investigation into communications with Russia. Trump later pardoned him.

  • Eric Trump, son of former President Donald Trump.

  • Jim Breuer, a comedian and former actor on Saturday Night Live.

  • Patrick Byrne, former CEO of overstock.com.

Wootan has spoken at rallies in Salem in the past year, including a 2nd Amendment rally in May and an anti-vaccine mandate rally this winter.

The state’s mask mandate was still in effect at the time of the controversy. But on Feb. 28, Gov. Kate Brown announced that the statewide indoor mask mandate would be lifted on March 12.

Wootan alluded to “shenanigans” and the high demand for tickets as the reason for relocating the rally. He also referenced “idiots that have been hating things and stuff.”

Organizers with Black Joy Oregon called for city leaders to speak out against and take a stance against the rally when it was first scheduled for Salem. Their online petition said the event had the potential to bring violence, harassment and a public health risk to the region. They cast doubt that the participants and organizers would follow local health guidelines. The mask mandate was still in effect when Black Joy Oregon created their petition.

Julianne Jackson, the founder of Black Joy Oregon, said they were still concerned about the threat of violence and intimidation that some attendees at the event could bring to the community.

“Every time there’s an event like this in Salem or Keizer, it really makes life miserable for people of color,” she said.

They stay home. They avoid the area surrounding the event. They stay on guard.

Wootan said in the video that the people who claimed the rally would bring hate and violence to Salem were actually the intolerant ones.

“To all of you that are like, you know, ‘we can’t have hate like that’ — be careful,” he said. “Be careful that you’re not the hater.”

Jackson took issue with these claims.

“I can only speak for Black Joy, but … we spend a lot of our time loving on our community,” she said. “We spend a lot of time doing mutual aid. We’ve spent a lot of time again spreading joy.”

She said she herself has been assaulted by people following right-wing ideology — the same type of people she believes will be attending the rally.

“You can hate me, but you can hate me from over there,” Jackson said. “I don’t want it in my community. I don’t want to have to avoid it. I don’t want to have to feel unsafe.”

The community has overwhelmingly said it doesn’t want it here, she said.

“The reality of it is black and brown folks deserve to feel safe,” she said. “And when these types of things come into town, and when these types of things come into play, we are not.”

Reporter Bill Poehler contributed to this story

For questions, comments and news tips, email reporter Whitney Woodworth at [email protected], call 503-910-6616 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Controversial Reawaken America Tour rally to be held in Keizer, Oregon

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