TW/CW: This story contains strong language and threats of physical violence.
The mayor of Canby and a member of the Canby School Board are facing criticism this week after their apparent endorsement of a Facebook post threatening politically motivated violence.
The original post appeared on the personal — but publicly available — Facebook page of a Canby resident and military veteran, and seemed to reference the conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump’s loss in the November election was the result of widespread fraud.
“Is there someone in a position of actual authority who can make the decision that lethal force is required to reestablish liberty and return to Constitutional government, or do we just decide that on our own?” the post asked. “Asking for everyone who’s not a communist, China-owned douchebag leftard.”
Mayor Brian Hodson responded to the post with a heart — or “love” — reaction. Stefani Carlson, a member of the Canby School Board, “liked” the post and said, “Read your comment aloud and everyone in my house loves everything you say,” according to a screenshot of the since-deleted post.
At the time, the resident’s page featured several other threatening posts, including two gifs from the beginning of the 1993 Michael Douglas film Falling Down, in which the main character goes on a deadly rampage after experiencing a series of wrongs, inconveniences and societal abuses.
“The Calm Before the Storm…” read one caption, showing the character in an early scene, before he “snaps.” Another one read, “We are now here. Wait for it…” All three posts have since been taken down.
A screenshot of the Jan. 5 post — with the original poster’s name and profile picture removed but showing Hodson’s and Carlson’s reactions to it — was shared on social media Tuesday, drawing criticism and concern from the community. At least two residents — both members of the Canby City Council — reported the post to the Canby Police Department.
The Canby Current reached out to Hodson and Carlson, as well as the Canby School District and other council members for comment.
“I would never wish for unnecessary, excessive, or lethal force to be used against anyone,” Hodson said in a statement to the Current. “I do not condone the events that occurred last week at our state and national Capitol buildings.
“That being said, legal force is sometimes necessary to maintain law and order. Elected officials, including my fellow councilors, use social media for personal reasons, and oftentimes, false assumptions and accusations are made.”
Carlson told the Current she, too, is opposed to violence, and did not mean for her comment on someone else’s post to suggest otherwise.
“I do not support violence and have been a vocal critic of the violent protests,” she said. “My Facebook reply to his comment was directed at what I perceived to be his question about constitutional authority, not his exact choice of words.”
On Wednesday, Canby Superintendent Trip Goodall responded to the original post as well as Carlson’s apparent comment in support, in a statement provided to the Current.
“It is never acceptable to call for violence or to use targeted language that may be offensive,” Goodall said. “After the event of January 6th in our nation’s capital, all of us should recognize the importance of our words.”
He said Carlson’s apparent comment of support “strays far from the intent” of the Canby School District’s established civility policy, which is meant to foster a safe and inclusive learning environment.
“Any district leader or staff member who does not share this same commitment does not represent our values and should evaluate why they choose to represent our district, our staff, our students, and our community,” Goodall said.
The individual actions of a school board member do not reflect the positions of the district, he added.
“No one school board member speaks for the entire board or the school district,” he said.
Councilor Greg Parker said he was “disturbed and confused” when he saw the post and the mayor’s reaction to it, and said he forwarded it to the city attorney and chief of police for their review to determine if it meets the threshold of inciting violence.
“I was stunned and disappointed when this was brought to my attention,” said Councilor Sarah Spoon. “This is inconsistent with our statement for a safe community and our values. It hurts our plan to build a vibrant town. My first concern is the safety of people in Canby, and I forwarded the post to the police department.”
Councilor Shawn Varwig said he does not condone any manner of violence, and was saddened to see what took place in the nation’s capital this week as well as the violence that has plagued many areas of the country in recent months and even years.
“I won’t pretend to understand why the mayor used the ‘love’ reaction on the comment, and I have not spoken to him about it,” Varwig said. “What I do know is that it’s easy to misunderstand intent on social media, and I’m hopeful that is just a misunderstanding.
“I have always known the mayor to be an honest and caring person with Canby’s best interest at heart. In politics, we’ll never all agree, but I do think at the end of the day that he would abhor any such violence as much as the rest of us.”
Councilor Christopher Bangs said he had texted the mayor and asked him about it, and did not believe it would be fair to talk to the press until he’d had the chance to discuss it with Hodson.
“That said, the author should know better as one of our military veterans,” said Bangs, who also teaches government at Canby High School. “He should know the chain of command around here and the rule of law, that in this country we don’t shoot people because they oppose our politics.
“I don’t know what country he thought he was defending when he served, but it doesn’t sound like the United States to me. As a teacher, I’d be happy to instruct him on what ‘communism’ actually means.”
Asked for comment, Councilor Jordan Tibbals submitted the following statement, on the condition that the Current would agree to publish it, unaltered and in its entirety.
“Due to the Canby Currents history of politically selective and irresponsible reporting, my personal policy is not to comment on any stories they choose to cover.I will not participate, as it creates a horrible precedent. This is not what the citizens of Canby elected us to do. Our job is the business of the city of Canby, my focus will be on these efforts.”
The theory that the election was “stolen” from President Trump has been rejected by courts and election officials across the country — from both parties.
Lawyers representing the Trump campaign and his allies have failed to advance their claims of election fraud, malfeasance and mishandling in at least 60 cases heard by the nation’s courts — including some judges appointed by Trump himself.
Their rulings were, at times, scathing in their condemnation of cases that failed to meet even the most basic thresholds of evidence and procedure.
Still, the narrative has been pushed doggedly by the president and other Republican leaders for months, and the incendiary rhetoric surrounding the claims has been widely blamed for the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 that left a police officer and four Trump supporters dead.
Closer to home, a Beavercreek man, who is accused of attempting to break into the state Capitol while armed and shooting at a federal courthouse, was apparently motivated by his belief that Democrat Joe Biden’s November victory was illegitimate, according to his statements on YouTube.