Councilors discuss reaction to events of Jan. 6

Philomath city councilors during Monday night’s meeting opted to not draft a resolution of its own condemning the events of Jan. 6 at the capitol buildings in Washington, D.C., and Salem but several did express interest in signing a statement crafted and released by Benton County and Linn County officials.

City Councilor Ruth Causey read the statement, which came in too late to include in council packets, during the meeting (full text of statement below).

Causey said she had originally intended to ask fellow councilors if they would support the drafting of a Philomath resolution “to condemn these events and to make it clear that those who would perpetrate domestic terrorism have no place in this community.”

However, she saw the statement by Benton and Linn counties and viewed it as a powerful piece in the number of people who have already supported it — a list that includes dozens of community leaders from the region.

“I think our efforts collectively are so much more powerful than Philomath drafting a resolution,” Causey said.

Causey offered to work on the drafting of a resolution if the council preferred.

“I think this is a good statement either way,” she added. “I would like to add my name to this and encourage others to do the same.”

Mayor Chas Jones said he debated the issue and expressed fear that a resolution might build walls where they want bridges.

“Do we need to reach out to parts of the community that may be supporting this or do we just need to condemn them?” Jones asked. “I personally struggled with that, trying to figure that detail out. I know I was not the only councilor struggling with that.”

Councilor David Low said he believes the topic goes beyond political party or belief systems.

“I think it speaks to what the Constitution represents, what we as Americans feel as to what we are and what we aspire to anyway,” he said. “I think condemning an armed attack, unprovoked on Congress that’s in session and doing its work … I don’t know how anyone could object to that or that it’s somehow divisive. It’s a horrendous attack.”

Councilor Matt Lehman said he agreed with the statement and would be more than happy to sign it.

“You can have your thoughts about political dynamics and you can feel chagrined as we all have in the past, but rising up and trying to disrupt the flow of the government is just not acceptable,” Lehman said.

Councilor Catherine Biscoe said she appreciated the statement’s neutrality.

“We’re talking about preserving democracy, we’re talking about preserving America and the Constitution,” she said. “So I am in support of this particular declaration. I would be cautious for us as a governing body, however, to take a position.”

Councilor Teresa Nielson believed it would be best to consider the existing statement rather than a Philomath-specific resolution.

“I would prefer that we as a council would choose independently to support this declaration rather than a council resolution,” she said. “I think it is a time for us to unify and putting our names to a document that is multi-county, I think, shows unification rather than us standing as an independent entity as a city.”

Concluding his thoughts, Jones expressed concern over reactions.

“The one thought that I again have … is that I want to be careful,” he said. “I’d rather not invite people to come and riot in Philomath and occupy our City Hall, so whatever we do, I would rather not try to inflame anyone but I do appreciate the neutrality of what I saw in that letter and I personally would be willing to sign it myself.”

Before the discussion of the statement materialized, Low had shared his personal reaction to the Jan. 6 events.

“I learned about the three branches of government back in seventh-grade history and the legislative branch, that’s our checks and balances. … To see the legislative branch attacked that way, I couldn’t imagine it,” he said.

Low also commented on the racist nature of the attack on the capitol.

“The recognition that systemic racism is alive and well, unfortunately, we saw a blatant form of racism with the people that engaged in the insurrection at the capitol last week,” Low said. “Just absolutely disgusting — Confederate flag, white nationalist flags, hate symbols, people invading our legislative branch disrupting the people’s business.”

Added Low, “I think we have to be very, very alert to the forces in society right now that are trying to tear us apart. We need to do everything we can to counter those.”

Statement regarding the events in Washington D.C. and Salem on Jan. 6, 2021
“We, Benton and Linn County community leaders and local elected officials, stand united in this statement in condemning by the strongest terms these acts of domestic terrorism that were witnessed in Salem and Washington, D.C. capitol buildings. We stand united that in order for our union to stay strong, we must accept that civil dialogue and representative democracy are the only ways to enact change.
Every citizen, parent and community member should stand united against this attack on democracy. Some of us ran for election and lost, but in the very act to run for office, we opt into the idea that we are running for something larger than ourselves. We are deeply disturbed by this attempted attack on our democracy.
Tonight, we must remind ourselves and our children that we cannot take democracy for granted. We must tell our children that acts of violence and rebellion against our representative government and its institutions are cowardly and unacceptable acts.”
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