Note: This story was updated at 9:50 a.m. Monday.
CRESWELL – Mayor Amy Knudsen said she is focused on the City’s strategic plan, and hopes to put July’s controversial events in the past.
“I think we do the work that we were elected to do,” she told The Chronicle on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of plans and policies that the council does have control over and does focus on; that’s what I want us to focus on.”
Knudsen posted a statement on the City’s website and Facebook pages on July 29 addressing the July 4 parade and its fallout. She told The Chronicle she hoped the statement would inform citizens regarding the role of the City and law enforcement.
Despite being warned by police ahead of time that citations would be issued if July 4 parade participants chose to put on the event unpermitted, a group of people turned its ire toward the mayor, city manager Michelle Amberg, and LCSO Sgt. Scott Denham once fines and court dates were issued.
The heat on the mayor was turned up after Jeremy and Brittny Griffis on July 13 made allegations on social media that Knudsen was seen “driving erratically and trying to spook horses intentionally” that were parading on Oregon Avenue on July 4.
The social media accusations spurred outrage among a segment of area residents.
“The mayor of Creswell is endangering the riders as well (as) people,” Ryan Hoffstot, Creswell business owner, wrote to The Chronicle, further stating that “this (situation) cannot be swept under the rug.”
Knudsen denied public comment on the allegations – until July 29, when she published a letter on the City’s webpage decrying the allegations and defending her leadership.
According to Knudsen, after driving home from speaking at the City-sponsored festivities at Hobby Field Airport that day, she and her husband were met by a traffic jam in downtown Creswell.
While she admits that her husband did honk the horn to alert the crowd to let them cross, she said that the allegations that the honks were targeted toward horses are false.
“There were horses in the parade, but he did not specifically target them and honk at them,” she said, adding that the interaction would not have occurred in the first place, had the parade been organized and followed the permitting process, which is put in place in part to minimize traffic issues.
The situation for Knudsen became confrontational as she sat idled in her vehicle, attempting to cross the street when “a man approached our vehicle on the passenger side, yelling and threatening to kill me,” she said.
She was met later that month by members of that same group, but this time, at her home.
On July 24, maddened parade participants, including Julie Bivens – a Creswell resident who was cited over $2,500 for her participation in the event – gathered in the mayor’s cul-de-sac. Knudsen clarified Monday that while her family was not home at the time, there was video captured of the group, as her statement said, “waving flags, chanting, and yelling into a microphone that I was part of the Chinese Communist Party, asking where my flag was, telling me to come collect my check, and demanding to speak with me.”
Both Knudsen and Denham confirmed that a trespassing call was made to the LCSO regarding the incident, but Denham said nothing that happened at the mayor's home rose to the level of trespassing or harassment.
The small mob at that mayor’s house was preceded by a vehicular protest in town on July 24, whose participants were angered by the forewarned citations received. Roughly two dozen pickups and other trucks drove down 5th Street and Oregon Avenue, honking horns, waving flags, and clogging intersections, attracting little attention from passersby.
To promote the event, a “Parade & Protest” flyer was posted on an Amon Bundy-related website, who is known nationally as the leader of the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon – a deadly 41-day standoff between federal agents and militants who rejected the federal government’s authority over public lands across the West.
The LA Times in an article cites experts who track extremists, noting that the website where the “Parade & Protest” flyer was posted has “significant overlap with white supremacist groups and other far-right organizations and that it has whipped up paranoia and rage, risking lives of hospital workers, health officers, politicians and others in the crosshairs.”
While the public response from her letter may not have caused the reaction she had hoped for, Knudsen said she would like to see the City move on from this situation and would like to see the City and council “can get back to a place where we can focus on the work at hand.”
Noel Nash contributed to this report.