SALEM — Thousands of truckers, timber workers and others converged on the Capitol Thursday as part of the Timber Unity rally. They were there to oppose carbon cap-and-trade legislation they believe would harm the livelihoods of many rural Oregonians.
Truckers who had convoyed from around the state circled the Capitol Building, honking their horns throughout the day, and several thousand people gathered on the steps and across the street for the rally, some bearing signs saying things like “Global Warming is a Communist Hoax.”
Republican legislators and others addressed the crowd. State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, gave a rousing final speech in which he said the people gathered for the rally were there not just for themselves, but for their children’s future.
“It’s not about us in this building, it’s about you the people. Don’t ever let these people tell you otherwise,” he said.
He thanked the protesters for the boost he said they’d given him and the other Republican legislators, who are in the minority in Salem, and he said it took guts for the members of the crowd to be there.
“It’s a lonely place for us. I felt alone for so long. I’ve been looking for a hero. I didn’t get a hero, I got 5,000 heroes out here today,” he said.
Rob Gensorek of Basin Tackle in Charleston said he had been losing customers because people are leaving the state in droves, and he said it’s the state’s taxation and fees that are driving them away.
“These laws will destroy us,” he said.
He said green jobs won’t fix the problems caused by cap and trade, which he said would be a death knell to the economy.
“Unicorns and green jobs for everyone sounds amazing. ... Of course, that sounds ridiculous, right? So does cap and trade,” he said.
Timber Unity Vice President Todd Stoffel praised the crowd for coming.
“This is what standing up looks like. This is what having a voice looks like,” he said.
Jason Weaver of Weaver Road Construction in Roseburg was one of those protesters. The Weaver family got on the road at 3 a.m. They rode north driving a pickup among the semis in the truck convoy. There were more than 9 miles of trucks heading north when they were, he said.
Weaver said if the bill passes they’ll be out of business. He said they have a lot of older equipment. They won’t be able to afford brand new equipment and they expect fuel prices will be on the rise.
He said the Timber Unity protest was heard last time and he hoped they’d be heard again. He feels the legislators in Salem are too one-sided because so many come from the northern cities.
“The city of Salem and Portland, they think they can shove everything down our throats, and even though they have a lot of people the state of Oregon is what should be deciding, not just these two cities,” he said.
Ashley Christensen said her family has a contract cutting company in Tillamook. She said rural Oregonians have had enough.
“We’re the people that care about the land, and we care about the forests and we take good care of them and I feel like this is just going to cripple us,” Christensen said.
“I feel like there’s so much poverty in Oregon and I feel like this is just going to trickle down and it’s going to make things so much worse. Our small town relies on the timber industry and the farming industry, and just stuff like this is going to push people that are so close to homelessness just over the breaking point,” she said.
Willamette University student Lauren Redcay was a counter-protester standing alone in a sea of Timber Unity supporters. She carried a sign saying logging is increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increasing the chance of forest fires. It wasn’t too popular an opinion Thursday. One protester noted Redcay’s sign was made of wood, though she said she found it in the trash. She said she was there to honor her environmentalist mother, who died recently.
“I’m only 19 years old, so this is kind of stressful with all these older people here with really strong views against me. People just mostly like laugh and point and somebody was trying to come by and guilt trip me by asking if I use toilet paper,” she said.
Kayleigh Johnson, 11, of Roseburg was there with her family to support Timber Unity. She was carrying one of the tree seedlings being handed out and said the best thing about the event was all the trucks driving by and honking their horns.
“I think it’s cool,” Johnson said.