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.