On Feb. 19, approximately 100 people, kids, and dogs showed up on both sides of River Rd. in North Eugene for a Black Lives Matter solidarity rally.
The rally came after a local resident found a noose made of black rope on their yard waste can on Feb. 13 and their 1972 Volkswagen Type III Squareback was discovered to be vandalized with the “n-word” a couple of days later on Feb. 15.
A GoFundMe for both the car’s repairs and home-security cameras was launched and its goal reached shortly thereafter with the help of neighbors and local community members.
The River Road Community Organization called-for community members to gather between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and the solidarity rally was promoted by Community Alliance of Lane County on social media.
For 90-or-so minutes, the crowd of around 100 stretched along both sides of River Road holding signs, drinking hot cups of SolidariTea, raising fists, and eliciting honks of solidarity from supporting passersby — including a lumber-carrying trucker that got the crowd excited.
Prior to the scheduled end at 6 p.m., people began to leave and the rally subsequently ended.
From there, a few from within the crowd traveled to The Rawlin in Springfield for a candlelight vigil led by striking workers in remembrance of the 29 residents who have passed away in recent weeks.
By 6:15 p.m.—when I arrived—the vigil was well-attended and underway.
There, on the grass across the street from The Rawlin, an estimated 30 people gathered in front of a tent covering a table with 29 candles—one for each death inside the memory care facility.
The striking workers stood behind the table, lit a candle after each deceased resident’s room number was said aloud, and then took turns speaking—often through tears—about their love for the deceased.
One woman, who isn’t from Oregon said, through tears, that she’s “been here a long time” and that her co-workers and residents are the only family she has here.
Since striking, the workers out on the picket line haven’t had any contact with those inside.
Another woman said “night after night, no one, God only knows what is happening to our residents on the other side of that wall.”
“We hope for the best. We hope that no one has died in there. We don’t know.”
Many workers spoke, often sharing funny stories about their residents — lots of them receiving laughs and comments of agreement. “1-0-8, oh my god, one of the most stubborn men you met in your entire life,” one said. “I love him so much. He used to always tell me ‘oh well, what if you lose a few.’”
Another worker said “I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with ‘my family’ for two years, and, uh, boy, I have a lot of grandmas and I have a lot of grandpas.”
In closing, one worker spoke and said, “A majority of Rawlin workers stuck and not one of us has crossed the line to return.”
“Despite threats, surveillance, bribes, and harassment, we kept our majority and [have] kept each other strong,” she said. “We have filed multiple reports with the Adult Protective Service, Bureau of Labor and Industry, and DHS [Department of Health Services], and active investigations are going on.”
Editorializing a little, I can say that I truly understand these workers. I, literally, grew up in a nursing home visiting my great-grandmother regularly at the Los Altos Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Center in California. Later, too.
By later, I mean a decade-or-so and my mother’s first brain surgery to excise a Glioblastoma resulted in a severe infection. She survived sepsis thanks to her stay at the very same care facility my great-grandmother was at.
In fact, she was in the care of the exact same Certified Nursing Assistant, Yen—a middle-to-late-aged Vietnamese woman with a heart of gold—that I had known since childhood.
I vividly remember the look on her face after seeing my family and I walk-in after several years away. At first, it was joyous. Then, almost instantly, the mood turned dark and, frankly, I think that was when she realized that we weren’t there for a visit.