“We were in shock, we were frightened, worried… every emotion you could think of, it was there.”
Those are the words from the mother of a family who just days before was allegedly harassed and targeted by a group of white men from Clark County, Wash. at a Lincoln City beach on the Fourth of July.
The mother of the family wished to remain anonymous as her family fears retaliation from the seven men who were cited and released following their arrest, but her identity was confirmed by the Lincoln City Police Department (LCPD). She has decided to speak out and give her recollection of the events that took place this past weekend.
For the past 30 years, she said her family has been visiting the Oregon Coast, and for the past 20 years, the Inn at Spanish Head has been their hotel of choice, sometimes visiting over 10 times a year. They have become familiar with hotel staff and managers but are now starting to question their safety protocols following their last stay.
Red Flags Raised
Around noon on July 4, the mother said she was at the front desk when she overheard an employee on the phone speaking to someone about bringing flags to the hotel. The employee told the caller that only American Flags were allowed on their property, the mother said.
“I thought to myself, well what was that about,” she said in an interview with The News Guard. “I said to (the employee), 'I don’t even want to know what that conversation was about,' and we laughed.”
The mother went back to her room and told her husband about the strange call and said she started to feel uneasy. About an hour later, her children began arriving to the hotel. While unloading their car, she said two men approached them.
“They saluted them with Nazi signs… they did that and said ‘Happy Fourth’ and started laughing,” she said. “My kids told us what happened, we thought, you know, that’s unfortunate but whatever. We’ll just keep an eye out and stay away.”
An hour and a half later, two of her kids went down to the vending machine. A couple of guys again approached them and told them to come to their party that night. When the kids declined, the mother said the men flipped them off and started laughing.
“This started to bother me as a mother,” she said. “I called down to the front desk and said to (the front desk employee) what my kids told me. They said, ‘oh yeah, I know who you are talking about, they have been giving us problems since yesterday.’ My mouth dropped. I didn’t know they were actually staying in the hotel.”
The mother said she was told by hotel staff that these guests had been shooting fireworks off their balcony, being loud, rude and obnoxious. They were given warnings, according the mother. The woman, who was involved in property management for 13 years felt like more needed to be done.
“My skills kicked in and I started to remember the laws and the rules, and i said, this is what you do… you take security up there and tell these men that they are not allowed to harass the guests and if they continue, you kick them out like anyone else,” she said.
The woman was told by hotel staff the situation would be handled.
Between 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., the family began heading down to the beach. They had brought their own fireworks since there was not going to be an organized fireworks display in Lincoln City.
“My son was so excited to do it, but he never got a chance,” the mother said. “We’re there to have a good time, let our hair down, look at the beach, unwind and have some fun… but oh no honey, we didn't get that chance.”
Down on the Beach
Around 5 p.m., from the beach, the mother recalls noticing several people come out of their hotel room, onto their balcony with two large flags. She said each flag was approximately six feet tall and read, ‘Trump 2020: Make America Cry Again.’
“They started waving these flags on the deck, they were yelling and screaming, ‘four more years of Trump,’ for about 20 minutes,” she said. “We were thinking to ourselves, this is not a Trump rally, what is going on here?”
The woman said some bystanders joined in on the chant, others countered with their own chants. It created a disturbance, she said.
At around 7:30 p.m., an estimated 10 individuals took to the beach while carrying their flags, setting off illegal fireworks and playing music from a large boombox that included songs about lynching and killing Black people, said the mother.
The woman said one of the individuals approached the father of the family and made a gun with his fingers and pretended to shoot him.
“I said, no, we’re not having this,” the woman said. “I got up and I went right back to the hotel and started to pray.”
The woman went back to her hotel room and called the front desk and explained what was happening. She was advised to call the police.
Police later arrived in their beach vehicles and began speaking with the group of men. More officers showed up, but none spoke to the family on the beach, the mother said.
“We got worried,” the mother said. “A few of us thought, are they going to try to turn the police against us? That’s exactly what they were trying to do.”
The family sent several of their kids back to their hotel room, then LCPD officers approached the family and allowed them to tell their side of the story.
“We started to feel better, we knew the police were not going to harm us, they were there to protect and serve,” the mother said.
The woman said she described to police the incidents leading up to that point, and the detective called for backup.
As more law enforcement arrives, the mother said that the men became more rowdy and agitated.
“These guys started throwing sand our way and then one guy took a firework, lit it and tossed it in our direction and said, ‘that’s just a sample of things to come,’” the mother recalled.
The LCPD officers saw it all and about 15 officers formed a circle around the family as the group of suspects got closer.
“They had no reason to come after us, we were not engaging in any way,” the mother said. “We didn’t know if they had weapons, all we knew is that we were the only Black family on the beach and we were being targeted.”
The woman said several of the officers were then involved in confrontations and several racial slurs were yelled.
“One guy said to an officer, ‘I like the fine job you guys have been doing for us in the news lately,’ referring to the killing of George Floyd,” the woman said. “It pissed me off, but I didn’t say anything because that’s what they wanted. They wanted us to engage.”
At that point, the woman said her family was advised to leave the beach for their own safety. More officers headed to the beach, as nearly 30 were involved in the incident. From their balcony, the family watched LCPD make arrests.
“It was like a movie,” the woman said. “They got into formation and rushed those guys, put them on the ground and arrested them.”
The mother said her kids decided to leave town that night and her and her husband didn’t get a wink of sleep. The next day, the mother spoke with hotel management, who said those individuals had been a problem since check in. The mother said she was told they needed multiple hotel employees just to get them to cooperate for check in.
“I asked, well why would you do that if they were giving you problems? She told me, ‘well, they promised me they would be good.’ They manipulated her, manipulated people in the hotel, they were there to take over and do harm,” she said.
The mother said she is thankful that this incident didn’t have a different outcome.
“I told them, you are luckily that this was a hate crime that did not turn into a fatality,” she said. “For that, I am very grateful because that’s what it could have been.”
The mother said her family will not be returning to the hotel until there is a change in policy and protocols. The Inn at Spanish Head did not respond to The News Guard’s request for comment.
The mother said her family has been grateful for the support they have been shown after the incident. She received several cards and gift certificates from Chapel By The Sea, a local Pizza Parlor and the family was even contacted by a Lincoln City resident who offered up her property at the beach for them to use anytime.
The woman wanted to give a special shout out to LCPD Chief Jerry Palmer as well.
“He is doing a fantastic job training his officers to do the right thing,” she said. “I don’t want people of color to feel like they need to take the law into their own hands first. Let’s try to go the right route first. Call the police, pray on this and hope that they will do what Chief Palmer has trained his fine officers to do. They did a fantastic job and we are very grateful for them.”
The mother said LCPD and other local agencies are putting together a care package for their family in hopes they will return to the coast and feel safe while visiting.
The seven men, who are facing charges of Rioting, Interfering with Police, Disorderly Conduct II, Harassment, Possession of Illegal Fireworks and Offensive Littering, were cited and released, but have not spoken with any media outlets since the alleged incident.
For the mother and the family who said they felt targeted because of the color of their skin, the mother said she hopes their story sheds light on what is going on, and that the outcome is not always predetermined.
“I’m going to speak for George Floyd and the rest of them because they can’t,” she said. “Out of all the protesting over the years, me and my husband, I’ll tell you, we haven’t been to one. There have been many times that we’ve talked about it and how we wanted to do something and get out and help, but we never did. Now that it’s being brought into my face, I’m not going to stick my head in the sand now.
“I hope this story brings more awareness to the situation, and people can see a different end result other than someone dying. Whether their black, white, green, yellow or purple… I hope every situation like that can turn out the way ours turned out.”
*Update: An Oregon attorney named Ben Cox, who is not involved with the family, organized a GoFundMe page online for the family.
"I believe that after what this family went through, they deserve a Nazi-free vacation to make up for what happened to them in Lincoln City, and I believe they deserve whatever other support that people are moved to provide," Cox wrote on the GoFundMe page. "Accordingly, I am raising funds on their behalf, and every cent contributed will go to them. On behalf of myself and the family, thank you sincerely for any donation you are able to make."
The GoFundMe page can be found at https://gf.me/u/yfrifz.