Remember back in August 2021 when the Delta variant was raging throughout Oregon, and over 2,000 anti-vaccine zealots made national headlines for protesting a hospital in Southern Oregon? We do.
In Jackson County, Oregon, COVID denialism provided a massive opportunity for Neo-Nazis, sovereign citizens, and the so-called Patriot movement to build a populist, far-right movement. While the pandemic-related protests fizzled out by the end of 2021, their conspiratorial legacy remains. They even took over the local Republican Party.
Surrounded by rural mountains in a region known for weed, mountain biking, and militia politics, Jackson County is home to roughly a quarter million people. In the area’s largest city, Medford, the first big COVID denial protest took place in mid-May 2020. Defying statewide restrictions on public gatherings, Medford police announced their support for the protest early on, and Republican County Commissioner Colleen Roberts was a featured speaker.
“It comes down to this,” Roberts asked the crowd of hundreds, “are we a free state, or are we a police state?”
News reports identified the rally organizers as Amy Rose and April McDonald. A Facebook post from the day shows Rose, McDonald, and other COVID denialists posing for a photograph with Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler and then-Medford Police Chief Scott Clauson. As it turns out, Amy Rose and April McDonald are local leaders of People’s Rights, the far-right network led by insurrectionist Ammon Bundy. Coincidence?
For County Commissioner Colleen Roberts, however, the militia fangirls just weren’t fascist enough. By August 2020, Roberts moved on to building relationships with Neo-Nazis Keith Michael “Biome” Erickson and Gregg Marchese.
Biome and Marchese were a big deal in the local COVID denialist scene, and their Nazi exploits have been well documented by Rose City Antifa and Corvallis Antifa. Commissioner Roberts, Biome, and Marchese were also in regular contact with a pseudo-legal group called the Constitutional Law Group. Apparently all of them were deep-diving into COVID conspiracies together.
Telegram chat logs shared with LCRW by Rose City Antifa point to a man named Christo as the key contact for the Constitutional Law Group. This is likely Christo Hartman – also known as Christo Hart – current leader of the sovereign citizen-styled group Americans in Action. Board minutes from the Jackson County Commissioners meetings reveal how Marchese and Hartman spouted their bizarre conspiracy theories at multiple Commissioner meetings together. At times, Marchese was joined by People’s Rights leader Amy Rose, fellow Neo-Nazi Biome, failed Republican senate candidate Kevin Christman, and others.
Gregg Marchese once wrote an article for the hardcore antisemitic Barnes Review entitled “Hitler’s Amazing Revolution: His Vision for Germany.” In 2020, Marchese’s posted in “Open Oregon” – one of the largest COVID denial Facebook groups in the country, founded by Talent, Oregon resident Larry Sykes. His posts alternated between Holocaust denial and recruiting speakers for County Commissioner meetings.
In mid-November 2020, Marchese called on Open Oregon members to attend an upcoming County Commissioner meeting in support of his pal Commissioner Roberts. “I suggest we call in great numbers to express our support for Commissioner Colleen Roberts,” wrote Marchese. “Colleen has taken some criticism for her views, and I told her in a phone call today that many more of us support her than she knows.” At that meeting, Marchese and Hartman used the opportunity to spout thinly veiled antisemitic New World Order conspiracy theories about the “Great Reset” and Agenda 21. This is a classic way Neo-Nazis promote their cause: find something people are upset about, in case this COVID, and then blame it on Jewish people or a stand-in for them.
While cozying up to elected officials like Commissioner Roberts, Gregg Marchese also flirted with insurrection. On December 21, 2020, Marchese was one of the far-right protestors who breached the Oregon State Capitol during a closed legislative session. On January 6th, Marchese was apparently stuck in Southern Oregon organizing a local “Stop the Steal” rally, but his Neo-Nazi pal Biome may have been present in DC.
On January 8, 2021, Marchese found himself banned from the Open Oregon Facebook group. “I have been banned from that group,” he wrote in another Facebook group. “I have been given no reason why.” We don’t know why either – maybe after the failed coup attempt in DC, Open Oregon decided to cut their losses.
Meanwhile, Marchese’s sovereign citizens allies were busy experimenting with new ways to mainstream their toxic conspiracies. In February 2021, Christo Hartman launched his Americans in Action organization with the “Love of Liberty” events in Phoenix, Oregon and Klamath Falls. These eight hour plus events moderated by Hartman featured a never-ending slog of pseudo-legal arguments about the “illegality” of COVID lockdowns, and more. Speakers included bigoted Pastor Mike Voight, Senator Dennis Linthicum, Constitutional Sheriffs Mark Lamb and Richard Mack, and an array of lesser known anti-government conspiracy theorists.
Six and a half hours into the Klamath Falls event, which was cohosted by People’s Rights Klamath, “health recovery” grifter Jason Christoff explained that COVID vaccines are actually the next step in a convoluted mind control plot led by the United States military. “We’re in World War III,” said Christoff. Naturally, this sinister plot is being advanced by the “most advanced weapon that they’ve ever developed – this takeover is based on the TV.” Christoff has a YouTube channel where you can watch hours of him talking about how evil screens are.
The presence of elected officials like Linthicum – who Corvallis Antifa also linked to antisemite Kevin Goodrich and of course Neo-Nazi Marchese – served to legitimize the bizarre conspiracy theories running rampant at these events. By appealing to populist fears and anxieties, COVID denialism provided an excellent opportunity for far-right actors to recruit and radicalize new members.
At the core of Americans in Action’s pseudo-legal theories is the idea that the federal government and its laws are illegitimate. The group’s leadership is essentially a docket of Jackson County Commissioner meeting attendees – familiar names from the AIA website include Hartman, a local real estate agent named Sharon “Ananda” Coniff, and Clark Mangelsdorf.
By the summer of 2021, AIA joined forces with an emergent coalition of far-right COVID denial groups known collectively as Southern Oregon First. Heralded by Ryan Mallory, a Talent, Oregon-based marketing professional and so-called “Patriot,” Southern Oregon First rallied over 2,000 people to protest Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in Southwestern Oregon. While people were dying in the hospital’s ICU at the peak of the Delta variant, Southern Oregon First was outside the hospital to protest against vaccine mandates.
Once again, these COVID denial protests served as a form of “entryism” into far-right politics and conspiracy theories of all kinds. “The Southern Oregon case,” wrote the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, “is a prime example of how COVID denial provides a steady flow of newly radicalized activists into the far-right pipeline.”
In their self-congratulatory YouTube videos, Southern Oregon First featured an array of familiar faces, including People’s Rights organizers Amy Rose and April McDonald (née Solesbee), Christo Hartman, and Larry Sykes, the founder of Open Oregon Facebook group. Southern Oregon First protests were also attended by Neo-Nazis Gregg Marchese and Biome Erickson.
On his Facebook page, Ryan Mallory is listed as Southern Oregon First’s “owner, founder, editor,” and his importance in the network cannot be overstated. Jackson County’s COVID denialists spent months experimenting with different ways to radicalize and recruit new members. As a local rightwing “influencer,” it was through Mallory’s support the Nazi sympathizing, conspiracy-minded COVID denialists were finally able to mobilize a massive populist base, all while deepening ties to pro-law enforcement groups and the so-called Patriot movement.
Ryan Mallory is most closely associated with the Three Percenter ideology. He was the lead organizer in the anti-environmentalist “No Monument” campaign, which opposed the 2017 expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Northern California and Southern Oregon. During that time Mallory actively collaborated with the Jackson County III%, which was then a formal organization led by Jason Williams and James Hanger.
In 2017, Williams and Mallory ran a pro-gun Facebook group called “Turning Oregon red Jackson county.” The group’s cover photo depicts an infamous moment from the Oregon State Capitol, when far-right gun advocates burned an effigy of Governor Kate Brown in 2016. This is apparently a favorite aesthetic of Jason Williams, whose current Facebook profile picture shows a man armed with a long gun while the White House burns in the background. In 2022, Mallory’s Facebook friends include Trent Ulrey, the resident of Gold Hill, Oregon who helped organize Portland’s violent, far-right “No to Marxism” rally in August 2020.
Ryan Mallory also collaborates with Jackson County III%ers on their annual Christmas tree giveaway. Although the group rebranded themselves as Patriotic Revolution in recent years, in 2016 the event was openly coordinated by Three Percenters including Jason Williams and Patti Robinson. Robinson, who is another one of Mallory’s Facebook friends, is a self-described “III% Proud” woman who apparently followed QAnon deep “down the rabbit hole of child trafficking, human sacrifice and Satanism.”
Ryan Mallory is also a major cheerleader for police. On his Thief Hunter Labs podcast, Mallory has hosted multiple law enforcement agents, including Jackson County’s Sheriffs’ Jail Commander Josh Aldrich. On Facebook, Mallory runs a series of massively popular “citizen operated crime and public safety” groups, where members report local police scanner updates and crowdsource tips on alleged crimes. In Jackson County, his “Scanner” Facebook group has over 80,000 members, and Mallory used this network to promote Southern Oregon First events with great success.
Rather than obscure their relationship between neo-Nazis, Bundy followers and other far-right actors, the Southern Oregon First website actively recommends followers join groups like the Three Percenter’s Patriotic Revolution and sovereign citizen group Americans in Action. As the “Groups to Join” page on Southern Oregon First’s website declares, “Get involved and find YOUR network of people!”
As it turns out, that network includes the official Jackson County Republican Party. In June 2021, an anonymous blog post on Southern Oregon First declared that the only way to stop “the neo-Marxist ideologies that have permeated our institutions and divided society” was by recruiting so-called Patriots to take over the local Republican Party.
“Mike Pence chose NOT to stand up for We the People and secure our elections,” another anonymous Southern Oregon First blogger wrote in July 2021. “We need Patriots to restore honor and integrity to our government.” In a dramatic effort to “save the country,” the blogger concluded their rant with a link to the “Precinct Strategy” website.
Popularized by Steve Bannon, the Precinct Strategy was a driving force in far-right politics leading up to the 2022 midterms, according to ProPublica and The Guardian. An antidote to a failed Capitol Insurrection – next time, just takeover the Republican Party and use its electoral authority to create your own election results! – if you paid attention to the midterms elections in states like Arizona, you know how this is playing out there.
The Precinct Strategy relies on recruiting far-right actors to run local GOPs as Precinct Committee Persons (PCP). In Jackson County, the party’s PCP coordinator is none other than Southern Oregon First leader Scott Morgan. Morgan has appeared in multiple Southern Oregon First YouTube videos, and he matches the description for the Telegram user “Rogue Valley.” As “Rogue Valley,” Morgan serves alongside Ryan Mallory as an administrator for Southern Oregon First’s Telegram channel.
Precinct Committee Persons records obtained from the Jackson County Clerk show there were 109 PCPs in 2018-2020. By the end December 2022, there were 175, representing a 60% increase. Current Jackson County GOP PCPs include Mary Wallis, who appears in multiple Southern Oregon First videos and is the group’s staff photographer; election denier Amber Richardson who was profiled by local media alongside Gregg Marchese as a “leader of the anti-vax movement;” and the current Secretary of the local Jackson County Republican Party, Vickie Westbrooks, is active in the Southern Oregon First Telegram channel.
During this time period, the Neo-Nazi Marchese and other COVID deniers remained a constant presence at County Commissioner meetings. But in October 2021, Marchese announced that he was he was leaving the state of Oregon and moving to Texas. In his final fond farewell to Commissioner Roberts, Marchese told the county that his comments in November would be “his last public comment as he is leaving for a state that is more defensible against the neo-communist revolution… He said that additional tyranny is to come and the multi-trillionaire, satanic cult is enacting a death agenda and totalitarian control from a disease scare.” Jackson County Assessor records confirm that Marchese’s house in Phoenix, Oregon was sold on October 20, 2021.
Unfortunately, Marchese’s departure didn’t stop his GOP compatriots from going down the far-right rabbit hole. Last summer, the party’s Central Committee unanimously passed a resolution rejecting the 2020 election results. In the recent midterms, Colleen Roberts – Marchese’s favorite elected official – secured the local GOP’s endorsement and was re-elected for another four year term as County Commissioner. The Jackson County GOP website even includes a “Redpill Corner” where you can find links to Steve Bannon’s “War Room,” classic QAnon favorite film Plandemic, and “Human Events Daily,” the podcast hosted by fellow Neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec.
LCRW staff wrote this article under the supervision of Editor in Chief Abner Häuge.
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