Larry Didway, Oregon City superintendent and newly named leader of the Clackamas Education Service District, is under fire for recent comments he made equating a series of local flag wave events with white supremacism — and Molalla Mayor Scott Keyser is the latest to call for his resignation or termination.
Keyser blasted the OCSD superintendent in an open letter he posted to social media this weekend and also sent to local media outlets including The Canby Current.
The war of words follows several demonstrations that have been staged outside the Berry Hill Shopping Center at the intersection of Cascade Highway 213 and South Beavercreek Road in Oregon City. The demonstrations are patriotically motivated, organizers and participants say, and have gone on for several consecutive weeks.
The event on Friday, May 21, drew a small counterprotest by left-wing demonstrators, and nearby Clackamas Community College closed its campus that day out of fear of possible unrest. Though the dueling demonstrations attracted police and media interest, the two groups kept their distance.
According to The Portland Tribune‘s Zane Sparling, approximately 250 people attended the peaceful flag wave along Highway 213, some wearing the trademark yellow and black of the far-right Proud Boys.
The Proud Boys have been designated a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other watchdogs — while its members adamantly deny any bigotry or racism.
“We are angered by and strongly oppose the display of white supremacy groups in Oregon City on the last two Friday afternoons,” Didway said in a message to students and families in the Oregon City community, according to a screenshot shared by Keyser.
“We want to acknowledge and reassure our support to community members, students and staff of color who experience the psychological, emotional, mental and physical harm that acts of this nature cause. Oregon City School District does not tolerate or approve of these acts of intimidation.”
The message went on to offer support from the district to families, students and staff who “feel targeted or intimidated by the presence and demonstration of these groups.”
Keyser was among those outraged by Didway’s characterization of the flag wave events, calling it “outrageous” and blasting “his blatantly hateful and ignorant misunderstanding.”
“For a person of leadership in the school system to publicly and arbitrarily accuse a diverse group of citizens (from his own community) of being white supremacists is not only an insult to the participants but unbecoming of his own office and the school district as well,” he wrote.
The flag waves involved diverse groups of local citizens who “gathered to peacefully show their love and support for our country,” he added.
“The event was carried out in the most peaceful, positive and respectful way, and was attended by people from diverse ethnicities, cultures and age groups,” Keyser said. “Had Superintendent Didway attended the event, he would have witnessed for himself the attendance and participation of Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian and LGBTQ people groups, as well as school board members and an elected city mayor.”
Keyser concluded by demanding Didway’s immediate resignation or termination of Didway’s job with the OCSD (he is currently scheduled to step down at the end of this month), as well as the rescinding of his new position and three-year contract with Clackamas ESD — and his “permanent disqualification to apply for this position in the future.”
“By his recent actions, Superintendent Didway has demonstrated exactly the type and level of disrespect of our flag, suppression of freedom of speech, and spreading of misinformation that the participants of the flag-waving event respectfully and lawfully oppose,” Keyser said. “Do we really want this person to oversee our children’s education?”
The news that Didway would leave Oregon City schools to assume a new position with the countywide service district came amid an investigation into his handling of a controversial equestrian coach — who retained her job after an illegal vote school board members made behind closed doors.
A post on the Oregon City School District’s website congratulating Didway on his new position was no longer active as of Sunday.
A similar post on the Clackamas ESD’s Facebook page remained online, though commenting had been limited.
Didway did not return a request for comment.
Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!