Photo Essay

Tiny Oregon Town Holds Armed Rally to Defend Flag Against Feared Invasion

They patrolled the roof of a Baskin-Robbins and planned to stay as long as necessary. Because, rumors.

Photos and Text by Mike Zacchino / June 1, Grants Pass, OR

Usually, when I see a crowd of people standing around in Grants Pass, OR, my first thought is: “Nobody here is wearing a mask.” Tonight, my first thought was:” Many of these people are carrying semi-automatic weapons.”

Welcome to my city, where a rumor of antifa coming to take down an American flag brought out people with guns to make certain it didn’t happen.

It must have worked because antifa didn’t show. What may be the largest American flag in Oregon is still flying tonight. Rumor has it that they might have been coming tonight or tomorrow, so I expect the vigilance to continue for another day.

Not everyone had guns, though many had pickups. Those who weren’t with weapons were looking at people with weapons. It was like being at a swap meet where nobody was selling anything but everyone was gathered in groups, having a good time, and toting guns.

And if you’re wondering, nobody wore a mask, including me, though I did try and keep my distance, as is often the case when I see someone carrying a gun. No, I really didn’t want to stand out in this crowd. As a white male, I fit right in, though I was wearing a collared shirt. I thought the mask would make it more difficult to take candid images, so I kept my distance.

I had to keep backing away from the woman who said her father owned the property and the people were here to guard the flag against the rumor of antifa. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that antifa lacked the organization and patience to make a five-hour bus ride from Portland to Grants Pass to take down an American flag.

She was proud of the community support, and it wasn’t my place to spoil the moment with logic or reason. Earlier in the day, my wife Anne went to her classroom and Costco, and President Trump went across the street to hold a bible in front of a church so the media could document the moment. He did this minutes after speaking from the Rose Garden, where he said he’d take care of the violence and looting, even if it meant summoning the army to some cities. He need not concern himself with Grants Pass. Around here folks carry guns, and tonight they kept antifa away.

Mike Zacchino is a professional photojournalist who has worked for 30 years at the San Diego Union-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Portland Oregonian , and currently works at a television station in Southern Oregon.

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