Geoff Hinds

Geoff Hinds, director of the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, inside the expo center in October 2020.

The far-right Reawaken America Tour event in Redmond in April could be canceled midevent if organizers don’t comply with state mask rules, according to a new contract addendum Deschutes County is asking the event organizers to sign.

The contract addendum is going to organizations holding events at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center through the next 90 days, which includes the tour, said Deputy County Administrator Whitney Hale in an email. Fairgrounds employees will also be sending a separate letter just to Reawaken America Tour organizers, Hale said.

These actions are in response to public records that show a planner for the event — which is scheduled for April 1 and 2 — said in emails he “personally talked at length with 2 of the 3 county commissioners, both of whom sit as Republicans” and was assured the state’s mask mandate would not be enforced.

The event includes numerous high profile supporters of former President Donald Trump, including Gen. Michael Flynn, who was pardoned after his conviction lying about connections to a Russian diplomat, and Roger Stone, who was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation and later pardoned by Trump. It also includes vaccine skeptics and others known for spreading election misinformation.

Commissioner Tony DeBone, Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson and Geoff Hinds, the executive director of the fairgrounds, deny making any kind of assurances. Commissioner Patti Adair also said that “of course the mask mandate will be enforced” in a text message to The Bulletin, but did not speak to whether she personally spoke with organizers in her message. DeBone and Adair are Republicans.

But Commissioner Phil Chang, a Democrat, said he wanted to make it crystal clear to organizers that they are expected to follow mask mandates.

“This will not be a matter of two commissioners denying things and ending there,” Chang said. “I want people to know there will be follow through.”

Chang has committed even to monitoring the event himself to make sure the state’s mask mandate is followed.

“If I have to call (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) myself and sic OSHA on my county, I will do that,” Chang told The Bulletin Friday.

Chang said for at least a week the commission has received emails from constituents concerned about the event.

Chang said he was defending the county’s allowance of the event based on the right to free speech until he was made aware of a public records request made by another media outlet that showed the emails claiming that two commissioners made assurances that mask mandates didn’t have to be followed.

Chang said he personally was never contacted by event organizers, and was unaware his fellow commissioners had spoken with the organizers.

“When I read that, my jaw just dropped,” Chang said.

Since then, Chang said he has been working with staff to send a formal letter to the event organizers.

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Reporter: 541-633-2160,

bvisser@bendbulletin.com

(16) comments

Thomas Who

The Democrat party still using COVID as a thinly disguised device to obstruct and deny taxpayers and Patriot citizens the rights of assembly and free speech.

The Democrat party hates, depises and characterizes normal people as far-right extremists who would stand up and openly reject their own far-left ideology.

Any mass gathering of people who do not support their particular political point of view is a huge threat to…them.

Phil Chang, and his party can never win based on their policies or ideas. They know they can only cling to political power through cheating, obstruction, union money laundering, and election fraud,

Cragro

Just in case you did not know, it's the democratic party, it's also a virus that came just as trump sent our military to Wuhan in 10/19/19 for the olympics... so maybe place the blame on your a...hat that even pulled 30 virus jobs to oversee the Wuhan facility. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/23/congress-wuhan-military-games-2019-covid/

BuckeyeDuck

Self righteous are we TW?

75927

Thomas, your incendiary remarks are an affront to the public health of our community, let alone the political stability of this great country. Your statement is not "normal."

63167

Here are more thanks given to Commissioner Chang by a law-abiding, rule-abiding citizen.

jsppeace

Thanks you Commissioner Chang! We must all follow the mask mandates!

Flynn, Stone, and their cronies are traveling around the US to fan the flames for another attempted coup if their candiate does not win in 2024.

Starling

I want to add to the thanks for Commissioner Changz willingness to uphold the mask mandate. I’m appalled by the sheer numbers of people and businesses in total disregard of the mask mandate.

Gary Mendoza

Undue fear of Omicron and contempt for dissenting voices is a solid foundation for the righteous.

BuckeyeDuck

Undue stupidity and contempt by the right for following basic health care standards in a pandemic is a solid foundation for further stupidity.

sahara64

Sincere gratitude to Commissioner Chang! This event is an embarrassment - however, free speech is free speech. That said, the rules apply to everyone. Speed limits, driving insured, and right now - masks. Thank you Mr Chang, I for one am deeply grateful!

Pnwhof

Appreciate Commissioner Chang's levelheadedness and community concern. Hosting felons is rather embarrassing. Sigh

kindergentlerbend

Thank you Commissioner Chang. Omicron is probably at least as contagious as measles. Your concern for the community and fair grounds employees is commendable.

JohnnyTurtle

I’ll add my thanks to Commissioner Chang.

75927

Thank you for your courage and strong stance in the matter of ensuring our community’s safety during the April 1 and 2 Far Right rally. Notwithstanding the presence of two convicted felons requiring our scarce financial resources, I find the statements of your two associates on the Commission to be far from reassuring. Thanks, again, for taking a firm stand.

cjp8784

THANK YOU COMMISSIONER CHANG! There is much about this event that troubles me--I am not keen on convicted felons being given a platform in our County, but that aside, this from Capital Insider today:

"Oregon posted a worst-in-the-nation 486% rise in infections over the past two weeks, an analysis of national and state health records by the New York Times reported Thursday.

Oregon reported 47,272 new COVID-19 cases during the week of Jan. 6.

That's three times higher than the previous pandemic record and six times higher than just two weeks ago, Allen said.

A guy

Thank you Commissioner Chang

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