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People gather outside the Monmouth City Council meeting on Aug. 4.

Itemizer-Observer

MONMOUTH — An all-ages crowd of people, many holding flags and signs supporting police, listened outside Volunteer Hall on Aug. 4 as Bodie Bemrose read a prepared statement to Monmouth City Councilors.

The group is called Truth & Freedom United. Bemrose, who owns buildings in Monmouth, Independence and Dallas, said there is not a leader.

“I know people assume I am, but that’s not accurate,” he said. “I got involved only by listening to my residential and commercial tenants, and neighbors that live in Polk County. The only way I felt I could help them is by offering a place for them to gather and share concerns with fellow citizens that want all of the division over with.”

Aug. 4 was the first gathering outside a city council meeting.

Bemrose spoke to councilors during citizen comments.

“I grew up here and I’ve invested my life into this community,” Bemrose said. “And I’ve sacrificed a great deal to make our downtown and community a better place. Our buildings house many local businesses and residents throughout this county. But on a weekly basis now, I have residential tenants suffering from mental health issues related to the chaos, rampant shaming and increased government control over our lives.

“Small businesses, already struggling to get through COVID-19, are now being harassed by the BLM movement. Shaming and making threats in person, on the phone and on social media, all in an effort to shame and destroy their businesses.”

In an email after the meeting, Bemrose declined to provide specific information about the threats he mentioned to councilors. He said Truth & Freedom United is not against BLM.

“This is not a counter to BLM or a Blue Lives Matter movement,” Bemrose said. “This is a pro-freedom movement. We support and believe in the same freedoms and justice that BLM want.”

Bemrose said they see educators and professors at intersections holding “intimidating signs that read ‘White silence is violence.’”

He said he heard the council is “considering their demands to defund the police and conduct racial profiling surveys on our citizens.”

Council is not considering either of those actions mentioned, Mayor Cec Koontz said.

Bemrose told councilors “all of us need to start having serious discussions about an ideology behind all this.”

“The ideology that governs us is critically important,” he said. “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And our Founding fathers knew this. This is why they created a true form of self government. Maximum freedom for all citizens in that nation regardless of your race or creed.”

He said he and the Truth & Freedom United group were there to support and defend their police men and women.

“Our law enforcement, our police, they preserve both democracy and decency and they protect the national treasure we call the American dream and no one is going to take that away from us,” Bemrose said. “I’m a history guy, but it doesn’t take much reading for one to discover what happens when you remove law and order. The locals are forced to take things into their own hands. Do you think our common citizens are trained in deescalation tactics when a threat is present?”

He said they don’t have the training to react like trained police officers.

“History will reveal that when common citizens cannot rely on law enforcement to protect them, the common citizen will remove the threat immediately and forcefully and ask questions later,” Bemrose said. “Do you know what the word vigilante means? Let me read what Webster’s says. A member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because legal agencies are inadequate.”

He said it is human nature.

“We do not want this,” Bemrose said. “We will not allow our nation to become like others that have failed. The most horrific reality of these nations that lost their freedom was the number of deaths committed by the hand of governments upon their own people.”

He said those deaths are attributed to Marxists and communists.

Bemrose said, like the BLM movement, Truth & Freedom United has some requests and demands.

He said they want to increase the budgets to accommodate the following:

1. “To educate the public with a better understanding of the realities of policing in the 21st century;”

2. “To educate the public on the unique needs of American law enforcement officers;”

3. “Provide support and challenges and to accurately go against anti-police rhetoric polluting the trust of our citizens towards our brave men and women;”

4. “Offer news and analysis that educates every citizen on the latest issues relevant to safety of our community;”

5. “Uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

“All of you, law officials and our leaders, have signed and sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States,” Bemrose said. “If any of you believe in or are pushing for a different government ideology that is in direct conflict of our freedoms and the constitution, I hate to say this, but I think you need to resign.”

After Bemrose’s comments, Koontz said that “there  are clearly some misconceptions going on.”

“We have not actually talked at all about defunding police and that hasn’t really been asked of us,” she said.  “Somehow I think conversations going on outside our community are really starting to seep in.”

Koontz said she spoke for herself and all the city councilors when she said they are not “interested in implementing any form of government other than the one that we have, which honors our Constitution, honors the laws of our country, and I know that was — again, a reaction and a comment maybe these people feel because of what’s going on outside of Monmouth, but I know that doesn’t relate to Monmouth or to any of us.”

Bemrose also asked about the roundtable discussions Koontz and Independence Mayor John McArdle have been having with a small group of community members.

“I wrote a letter to you and John McArdle and I copied our police chiefs when I read the community letter that said you guys were going to have meetings with community leaders to improve race relations,” Bemrose said. “I don’t know why you guys didn’t respond to me or invite me to those meetings. And I hear, I don’t know for sure, I hear through the grapevine, that you guys are having private meetings without law enforcement involvement. You’re not having community involvement but these meetings are with the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Koontz has mentioned these roundtable discussions at other city council meetings and the Itemizer-Observer has written about them.

At the July 21 Monmouth City Council meeting, Koontz said she, McArdle and Western Oregon University President Rex Fuller, met with a community roundtable on July 8. They also met on July 22 and met again on Aug. 5.

“The group initially identified six topics, ranging from exploring the historic nature and ‘grown’ culture of bias in our state and towns to coordinated youth development opportunities,” Koontz said. “The discussion and ideas for action have been thoughtful; and have prompted the need for at least one additional meeting, scheduled for Aug. 5.”

The roundtables have not been open to the public, but Koontz said after the Aug. 5 meeting they will have “prioritized some actions and built a plan to engage more people and organizations in the community.”

The meetings are facilitated by Kathy Cassity, Western Oregon University’s Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Koontz said community members participating are Zellee Allen, Martha Arevallo, Edi Campos, JoeHahn, Toni Humphrey, Kyle Jansson, Jessica Lane, Noemi Macias, Vidal Peña, Luz Prado, and Matt Smucker.

Koontz told Bemrose that there will be opportunities for more people to be involved and she would talk to him after the council meeting about it.

“I appreciate that and I also want to clarify and emphasize that the tone in my voice is not necessarily my own,” Bemrose said. “It is the tone of my tenants, my coworkers, contractors, regular folks here in this town. And I’m just trying to portray to you to get the message across that people need to be heard and they love this nation. They love their freedoms. They love this community. And number one, these people that love this nation, are from all nationalities. We are a diverse group of people and we absolutely reject racism. We absolutely reject discrimination and we won’t stand for it. But we cannot drive a wedge and now start segregating people by race again.”

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