COQUILLE — Nearly 200 locals, some armed, waited outside Coos County Courthouse ready to meet buses of purported rioters.
As of 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, those buses never arrived.
The Coos County Sheriff's Office said it was inundated with reports that three buses holding Antifa would arrive at the courthouse at 8 p.m., an “anti-fascist” political protest movement currently being blamed for the violence across the nation. Small cities throughout the state and country are reportedly getting similar false reports of Antifa arriving in buses.
Meanwhile, that same evening, a handful of peaceful protestors stood with Black Lives Matter signs, echoing the same words of demonstrators across the nation have been saying since the recent murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
That message: “The point is, the United States watched a black man get murdered on camera … All lives matter, but the focus is on black lives because they are being treated unfairly for the color of their skin," said one Black Lives Matter protestor Tuesday night, while standing on a corner across from the courthouse.
This person's name was removed at their request because they received alleged death threats due to their participation in the protest.
A number of the people in attendance openly carried guns, stating they wanted to protect businesses from being destroyed or law enforcement from being harmed like they had seen in the news.
Some holding Black Lives Matter signs stated the guns were upsetting because it took the spotlight away from why the peaceful protests are being held.
"...When people tell us someone is coming to our hometown, after hearing threats and reading them online, I feel defensive and want to protect my home," said one bystander, Timothy Robinette.
Coos County Sheriff’s Office, issued a press release prior to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, informing the public that in the span of 36 hours CCSO received multiple calls from local citizens, businesses and outside organizations that a potential peaceful protest would be held. The release said there was the “possibility of (the protest) being used as a cover for possibly planned unlawful activities” that would threaten public property.
In response to these calls, the CCSO shared the information with area law enforcement to plan and coordinate “an appropriate response to any peaceful and/or unlawful activities,” the release said, adding that, “Unlawful activity, including threat of injury or loss of property will not be tolerated.”
“Peaceful protests we don’t have a lot of interest in — those are people’s rights,” said Sheriff Craig Zanni. “Our concern is if individuals might use that to do unlawful activities.”
He acknowledged that it didn’t make sense why a protest would be held at the courthouse late at night when it was closed, but urged the public to "go home" if unlawful activity begins.
During the hours-long wait, a vehicle drove by while a passenger held a Black Lives Matter sign out the window. At one point the vehicle was blocked in an intersection by the crowd. A man wearing the American flag as a cape was seen taking the sign from those in the car and shouting.
Deputies with the CCSO deescalated the situation, breaking up the crowd so the vehicle could drive on. Deputies recovered the sign from the man who took it. By that time, the vehicle had left.
Local activist Rob Taylor was seen talking to people in the crowd earlier in the evening as a curious onlooker and told The World he didn’t know if anything would happen that night.
“I don’t believe it will ever rise to the same level of violence here, but people don’t want that to happen … (they) won’t let anyone roll into town to disrespect them,” he said.
One Oregon State Police trooper in attendance, John Cooper, said, “The biggest thing is protecting everyone’s right to protest or their beliefs. Everyone deserves to have the ability to do so and make sure the scene doesn’t get out of hand … Everyone is united about George Floyd. Officers don’t condone the action."
“I think it’s time for people to come together,” Cooper said.