After the first Black Lives Matter protest in Prineville last month, Mayor Steve Uffelman wanted to know why the protesters had traveled from across Central Oregon to his town.

Uffelman attended a second protest June 13 and came away with a better understanding after speaking with a black woman who grew up in Prineville. She shared her

experiences with racism and acceptance in the community of 10,000 people, where less than 1% of the population is black.

“It was very enlightening to sit and listen to what she had to share about what it was like to grow up in this town,” Uffelman said. “All of us want to be heard, and all of us ought to have the opportunity to be heard. I was grateful I was there.”

Not everyone in Prineville feels that way. The Prineville woman who organized the Black Lives Matter rallies, Josie Stanfield, is in hiding after receiving death threats.

Business owners are worried about unrest because a third protest is planned for Saturday. And police are bracing for the potential of violence from armed counterprotesters.

“This has been a terrifying time for me and my family,” Stanfield said in a prepared statement from her attorney.

The first protest, on May 31, generated national attention and praise from former President Barack Obama.

But tensions escalated at the June 13 protest, resulting in four arrests. Black Lives Matter protesters intended to peacefully rally outside the Crook County Courthouse in support of other nationwide demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody. Counterprotesters stood on the other side of Third Street, expressing their displeasure with the rally happening in their town.

Fallout from the protest led to threatening messages on social media and Stanfield being driven into hiding.

Both sides expect an even larger crowd for the third protest at 1 p.m. Saturday outside the courthouse.

Uffelman said he wants Saturday’s protest to be peaceful and hopes there is not a large crowd of counterprotesters agitating the demonstrators.

“There will be a significant police presence, and if people step out of line, that will be addressed directly,” Uffelman said. “Rest assured that is the approach, if there is violence.”

Part of the tensions ahead of Saturday’s protest are from a clash between Prineville Police Chief Dale Cummins and Stanfield.

After the June 13 protest, Cummins posted a video on the police department’s Facebook page saying Stanfield publicly misrepresented a private meeting they had the day before the protest. Stanfield responded by hiring an attorney from the Oregon Justice Resource Center in Portland, demanding a retraction of the video. The police department has declined to comment on the request.

“We provided them with evidence that she has been getting threatening messages and has been driven from her home,” said Juan Chavez, Stanfield’s attorney. “We are hoping they are going to do the right thing.”

Chavez said the police department video has made the threats even worse. Stanfield hasn’t felt safe in Prineville, her home since 2007, he said.

“She is terrified,” Chavez said. “It hasn’t been easy. I know she was grateful so many community members came out to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and she is heartbroken that too many community members, including the Prineville Police, have taken such a hostile reaction to her.”

According to Facebook posts from the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, the group met with Cummins and other city officials Wednesday to discuss concerns leading up to Saturday’s protest.

Cummins told the group the police department is focused on keeping everyone safe at the upcoming protest.

Prineville Police Sgt. James Peterson said the department is monitoring all the threatening online comments. The department is staying flexible as it prepares for the protest, he said.

“We are doing our best to keep our community safe and keep all the people involved safe,” Peterson said. “We just hope everybody stays peaceful and makes good decisions.”

Businesses near the protest plan to either close for the day or stay open and have a presence to protect their buildings from potential damage.

Jana Simmons, owner of Tastee Treat, a diner just down Third Street from where the protest will be held, said she plans to close her business on Saturday.

Simmons is disappointed to lose the income, but closing will protect her employees, she said.

“For safety, we are going to close for the protest,” she said. “But we are going to have people here around protecting our building.”

For the mayor, he will be out of town during the third protest. But Uffelman hopes the protest will continue the conversation of black people’s experience in Prineville and the national conversation around policing in America.

“This is not something that is going to be over and done with this Saturday,” Uffelman said. “This will be an ongoing conversation down the road.”

Reporter: 541-617-7820,

kspurr@bendbulletin.com

(11) comments

PrinevilleResident

I live here in Prineville, if you are coming to protest peacefully then fine, do it and go, if some of you are planning to start trouble, it will not end well for you, we love our town and will most definitely protect it, so hopefully BLM will police its own before something happens and we police them, just a concerned citizen who values life of all colors, creeds, sexual preferences and religious differences and does not want to see anyone get hurt

Skittish

The protestors perceive Prineville to be completely racist, which I disagree with. There are no doubt varying degrees of racism, but don't have anything to judge by. Are you aware of any information or statistics regarding arrests and excessive use of force by the Prineville Police Department? This seems to be the crux of the matter, yet no one knows. So that begs the question if there are really other reasons for the protest? This leaves their motives suspect and completely open to misinterpretation.

I would agree with you that people coming to my neighborhood or town simply to yell that we are all the same and completely racist is a tactic destined to fail at achieving any kind of healing or resolution for anyone involved. There is much to talk about and no doubt there are misperceptions on both sides.

Regarding them trying anything violent, that liklihood seems remote. My concern would be Prineville residents showing up armed, which makes proper judgement calls more difficult on both sides. That is what would increase the chances of violence and certainly plays into their negative characterization of Prineville.

CardiacSpike

Apparently the Bulletin's reporter did not watch this report from COBLA founder Riccardo Waites last night -

https://www.facebook.com/foryouformeforwe/videos/728878254530166/

Nor was aware that after this very positive meeting the Chief of Police also met with BJ Soper of the Oregon Constitutional Guard and other representatives from the Prineville militia folks - and they, too, pledged to see Saturday be peaceful and to police their own during the demonstration.

BuckeyeDuck

Yeah, those peaceful militia folks showing up armed and waving their weapons at the BLM folks. Throwing out some racial epithets while they were at it. I particularly liked the old dude interviwed by KTVZ at the second protest claiming communists had infiltrated everything. Showing up with weapons as a means of counter protest. Must be due to an inferiority complex.

Skittish

Perhaps they have fears, want to be heard and not mischaracterized, abused or taken advantage of, just like the . From a distance, both sides share some basic similarities - perhaps sitting down and talking with those you hate and fear is more productive than standing on a sidewalk yelling at each other? If you disagree, can you provide specific reasons why?

gsr

Image the "conversation" if both side were armed.

BuckeyeDuck

Fears? What would those be on the part of the armed folks who showed up? “We have to keep these uppity folks in their place or else they might…”kind of fears? I’ll walk back my previous comment about “inferiority complex” as it seems more like an effort to intimidate on the part of the “counter protesters” since there are officers of the law attending to keep an eye on things. I’m curious what peaceful discussion would have gone on Skittish? (Please Google Bethel, Ohio BLM protest of 80 protestors versus approx 700, many of them armed, “counter protestors”. Quite the peaceful conversation there. ) You make a point of sitting down and talking versus yelling across the street. Explain how that’s done when one side shows up armed? GSR asks a good question about the “conversation” that might occur if both sides showed up armed. I’ll bet you a hundred bucks if the BLM folks showed up armed and claiming we’re here peacefully we’d see a different police response. Fortunately, that situation hasn’t occurred yet.

Lastly, counter protesting at a demonstration that’s being held to protest against racism. What’s the message of the counter folks? If you’re not against racism, then…? Maybe you can define that for us. I’ve attached an opinion piece from the Idaho Statesman Ed Board 6/5/20 “Protesting against the Black Lives Matter vigil in Boise is on the wrong side of history”. Their commentary may help with your answer.

https://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/editorials/article243268086.html

Skittish

For some unknown reason to me, the reply button has been removed on your previous comment. All I am looking for from you is if you understand what exactly the problem is that is being protested in Prineville. Sure there is racism everywhere, but who exactly and how exactly is the racism manifesting itself, what harm is it causing and in what specific ways do you envision the protestors being able to effectively counter it? How do they measure success if there is no clear idea what exactly the problem is? Otherwise this all seems very vague and for what purpose? People are tribal, and the protestors would appear to be an outsider, even though I would disagree that the protestors are outsiders. Nonetheless, there are self described protestors going to Prineville to yell at the residents how racist (or morally inferior) they are: this should be expected to go over like a load of bricks. Why would anybody think any good will come of this? That's clearly prejudice on the protestors part. Then the Oregon Constitutionalists will play their role by showing up armed, fulfilling the protestors evil characterization of them. Both sides are simply acting the way the other side expects, and perversely proving each other right so they can continue their low resolution vision of reality. So, that's why I suggest both sides sit down and talk. Haven't other people done the same? How do we know that protestors themselves are not themselves highly prejudiced and racist? Only white people are racist? If people have to sit down and talk, they have to at least partially listen and thus get to know each other. They have to control their fear and anger and resist impulsivity especially if moderated. This makes it less likely that violence will occur. When one considers an action, there is always the possibility of harm: the question is if there is enough good to come out of it to justify the risk. That I can tell from your comments, there isn't enough understanding or information to make that calculation. Are you in fact aware of any data or objective evidence of racism in Prineville? If you aren't, then this seems overall reckless. What neither the protestors nor counterprotestors realize is that the overall system doesn't work well for those on the lower end of the sociopolitical economic scale irregardless of skin tone: these two groups are both getting the shaft from the political, educational, legal, and healthcare systems and have more in common than they realize. Being mindful of the present and focusing on the future is much more productive than living in the past. Trying to change others rather than yourself is a fruitless effort.

gsr

My understanding is that the protest in Prineville was about excessive use of force by police. Constitutionalists? Guess they had something else in mind.

Imtiredboss

Ya, all that police brutalty In prineville.

People here just want to be left alone.

Push their buttons at you’re own risk.

BuckeyeDuck

Quite the bit of socio-psychological babbling there Skittish. You never answered my question about protesting a protest about racism. I didn't expect one BTW. Might want to review history on the subject at The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. A quick bit of info would be the recent "Where Do We Go From Here " series. Your syntax, questioning on most of your posts make me wonder if you know the history of our country or if you're actually from around these parts.

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