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From left to right, Drew Webb, Cameron Bluhm, and Austin Jones stand outside a limousine while an American flag waves behind as they "protect" the Hamilton sign from Antifa threats Tuesday night south of Chehalis.

Amid rumors that protesters against Napavine’s Uncle Sam sign intended on blocking roads, and concerns after the sign was vandalized earlier this month, a crowd of about 100 people gathered Tuesday night at the billboard, many saying they wanted to protect it. 

Protesters also cited a rumor of a presentation of a petition to have the sign taken down at Napavine City Council based on an early petition that has circulated. 

Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza addressed the crowd in the parking lot of Bethel Church in Chehalis to cheers from the crowd. 

“We do allow peaceful assembly, it’s a first amendment right,” Snaza said. “So these signatures come and they’re going to go to city hall today and they’re going to protest and they’re going to ask the sign be taken down … that’s not going to happen.”

Close to 80,000 people signed the original petition created by Nicholas Baum. Now, a second petition created by a Centralia resident has received just over 35,000 signatures, while petitions calling for the sign to remain standing and for it to be considered a historical landmark are also garnering modest attention. 

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Sheriff Rob Snaza smiles as Hamilton sign supporters surround him in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Lewis County Chief Bruce Kimsey said none of the rumors were confirmed and although he saw nothing on an agenda, the speculation that a group would be presenting to the Napavine City Council and the possible protest began to swirl on social media. 

“We don’t have a name for anyone coming into city hall, this is the rumor that created,” Kimsey said. “They’re (Bethel Church goers) here to make sure that nothing happens.” 

Napavine City Clerk Sherri Salyers confirmed that the only group in attendance for Tuesday’s  city council meeting was in support of the sign. She continued by saying the City of Napavine hasn’t received any word or documentation of a petition, only rumors.  

Hamilton Sign Supporters

A Hamilton sign supporter talks about the weapons he brought to the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Among the crowd at the gathering was Chehalis resident Stephen Greer, who said he had to leave work halfway through the day due to concerns surrounding the closure of the highway. He said he was unable to concentrate on work.

“I didn’t want to be stuck in traffic while my town was being burnt to the ground,” Greer said. 

Greer said he was born in Chehalis and he’s read the sign’s messages for his entire life, even before it was relocated. He said he’s never seen any hate speech positioned on the sign. 

“Only opinions or eye-openers for corrupt politicians, little things like that,” Greer said. “No one is saying anything hateful against anybody. These groups are saying it’s all hate speech because they only know what they’re told.”

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Sheriff Rob Snaza speaks with a microphone to Hamilton sign supporters in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Like many of the attendees, Greer brought his own guns to the event. He said he hoped the demonstration would remain peaceful and the guns wouldn’t have to be used. 

Following the event, users took to Facebook, commenting about snipers on water towers positioned to protect the sign and a man jumping from a car and hitting someone at the sign with a bat before ultimately being arrested. Both reports are unconfirmed responses to a posting by The Chronicle. 

Candidate for Lewis County Commissioner District 1 Sean Swope also attended the event, citing the First Amendment as the reason. 

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Sheriff Rob Snaza speaks with a microphone to Hamilton sign supporters in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

“It’s a slippery slope when you start to allow any suppression of the First Amendment,” Swope said. “I think it’s important, no matter what it says, good, bad, or ugly, that the person and their rights are super important. So is the Second Amendment rights.”

He continued by calling for those on both sides of the argument to respect each other. 

“I’m not always going to agree with you, you’re not always going to agree with me, but if we respect one and other, that’s the biggest thing we can do,” Swope said. “If we can listen to one and other, hear one and other and meet in the middle on things, that’s the best place to be.” 

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Sheriff Rob Snaza shakes hands with Hamilton sign supporters in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

During his remarks, Snaza said sign owner Mike Hamilton was grateful for the support of those in attendance. He also pointed to the situations unfolding in Seattle and Portland before stating that nothing similar would be happening in Lewis County. 

“I can assure you that we’ve planned for this event, we have contingency plans and all that I would ask is that you trust us and allow us to do our job,” Snaza said during his speech. “I’ve made it very clear that if someone goes onto the property, on the Hamilton property, without permission, they’re going to get arrested.”

Sheriff Snaza continued by reaffirming his support for peaceful protests on either side of the argument, but he would not be allowing any violence or disobedience. 

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Scott, from Clark County, holds a sign in opposition of ‘Antifa’ in front of the Hamilton sign Tuesday afternoon in Napavine.

Following his speech, Snaza pointed to the number of signatures on the original petition. 

“80,000, that’s the population of Lewis County,” Snaza said. “We know that a lot of these people signing this petition are not from the local area. I think the frustration you’re seeing is that locals are saying, we still believe in our First Amendment rights.” 

He said as of Tuesday, he said he hasn’t heard of any requests by any groups to protest the sign. 

“We were dealing with some unknowns and so we had to work with that,” Snaza said. “We’ve planned for worst case scenarios, so we have systems in place, we’re ready to deal with big crowds, we’re ready to deal with medium crowds and we’re ready to deal with small crowds.”

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Sean Swope, candidate for county commissioner, talks about why he attended Snaza’s speech in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

According to Snaza, those who attended the gathering at Bethel Church on Tuesday are residents of Lewis County who “really care about where we’re at in today’s society.” 

“We just don’t want people coming in, telling us how we should run our communities,” Snaza said. “I think it’s challenging, because we’re in challenging times. Those are the most hard things as law enforcement because you have to understand both sides. I take no sides.”

Hamilton Sign Supporters

A sign that reads ’Support Your Local Police’ sits on a truck with flags as it pulls through the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Hamilton sign supporters mingle in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Men wearing highlighted vests park their vehichles in front of the Hamilton sign Tuesday afternoon in Napavine.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

A 1932 Ford sits in the parking lot of Bethel Church with a sign supporting Culp for Governor Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

A flag with imagery of a bald eagle and Satue of Liberty waves in the parking lot of Bethel Church with a sign supporting Culp for Governor Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Hamilton sign supporters mingle in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Hamilton sign supporters mingle in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Sheriff Rob Snaza speaks with a microphone to Hamilton sign supporters in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

Hamilton Sign Supporters

Hamilton sign supporters mingle in the parking lot of Bethel Church Tuesday afternoon in south Chehalis.

(24) comments

WAConservative

So glad to hear that things went smoothly. I believe in the Constitution and the First Amendment. If people are offended, look away and buy elsewhere. I am proud to stand up and defend our constitution. You let anyone dictate what sign you can post on your private property and we will be a country destroyed in a generation.

HeavyHemi

This display of overt political partisanship by Mr. Snaza should have him immediately resigning. He has taken sides. He's too stupid to even model the correct preventive measures by wearing a mask. I am truly getting disgusted with the political machine in Lewis County.

grammapenny

Lol

klford7

What an embarrassment to see a Lewis County leader like Sheriff Snazza on the news telling people 'Don't be a sheep'. This is a Lewis County authority acting out a juvenile rebellion. This is a person literally tasked with Public Safety. Where will he be when COVID-19 hits Lewis County like it has everywhere else? This time where our infections are low is like the pause between the thunder and the lightning - our turn is coming. We have enjoyed relatively quiet transmission in Lewis County because we have stayed home. Thanks to the Sheriff we will all be in more danger than ever before. What an embarrassment. The only thing that made it a little better is that the news did not show he was a rally to support a flagrant racist. I am ashamed to live here.

SCraig7001

Move.

drriley

I agree klford7; the whole spectacle was and IS an embarrassment to our County and our State. Those that follow the premises of White Supremacy and advocate for White Nationalism and anarchy against our Democratic systems are not only an embarrassment but a threat to our freedoms and liberty. I do NOT understand how these County Officials can get away with this obvious display of political contradictions of their oaths of office. I guarantee had ANYONE else shown up to protest "Black Lives Matter" these same Sheriffs would have used violence against them and perhaps allowed those armed to open fire upon them. This behavior MUST BE STOPPED! And Sheriff Snaza needs to be fired for his part in inciting the group to defy the laws of this state..

SixToeCalico

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language. Chronicle needs to follow it's own rules when choosing pictures to post.

BOGB

It makes me proud to know there's so many freedom lovin Patriots in this county. Willing to take time during a work week to show support of a local historic treasure. I'm also happy that our Sheriff, Isn't promoting the left's agenda of pushing fear, hysteria,and control of the mass's. A.R. Centralia.

Frosted Flake

Not even one mask. And some of these people are officials.

Cinebarbarian

Go back through the pictures. There's at least one.

AndyB

Those that don't like that sign should gather donations, find a spot and post their own messages. Right or wrong it's supposed to be a free country.

billwall55

you are right AndyB . those who need to get all riled up about a private opinion on a private billboard on private property need to go home and shut up. . thats saying it very politely .

drriley

These armed protesters are NOT exercising their First Amendment rights. Bullying, intimidation, and threats ARE NOT elements of "freedom of speech" - they are engaging in acts of aggression and oppression on the freedoms and liberty of others and County officials are showing preferential treatment for this unlawful - unconstitutional behavior. When we put a stop to allowing these groups to get away with "aggression against the people and the Constitution" we will be a better people. These radical groups have stepped over the line of their Constitutional rights into the area of state aggressors and should be treated as such. As a Native American Elder I would like to remind the people of our County that this country was NEVER a "White Country" and the sooner pluralism is accepted and that all citizens have an equal to live in "peace" the better our nation will be.

Cathey

I am embarrassed by the Sheriff and his political involvement. And the church..whatever happened to seperation if church and state? Oh..just SOME cherry-picked "patrioric" stance to defend the John Birch decendent's Hamilton family. The Sheriff clearly has bias. He can involve himself out of uniform.

billwall55

like i said , only smart people wear masks !

CaptMother

If the "smart people" who wear masks actually realized they don't really do much, it would save a lot of time. All the country has to do is smoke less for a year and that'll save more lives than Covid will ever take.

Dwalk29

I really wish you sheep wearing these rediculous mask would stop. Please do a little research into the covid plandemic. Congress was already writing the cares act in Jan before anyone even knew about this so called virus. Wake up ppl you have been watching to much tell lie vision programming. It's all about control and you morins are making it way to easy. Wake up before we lose all of our freedoms, plz !!!

lockwoj

So incredibly done with these selfish, arrogant and ignorant law breaking piles of fecal matter. Nothing patriotic, christ-like or intelligent in their behavior and words. Trash. Deplorable in every way.

grammapenny

Ah, must be a Biden supporter.

grammapenny

I'm embarrassed by most of the comments here. Must be Inslee supporters.

uintah

If the sign owners card about their county and their neighbors, they'd remove that sign themselves. The messages are as predictable as rain in WA State. Most often they represent instinctive hatred and ignorance-- no thought, no research, no intelligence. The signs' placement is a blight; it damages Lewis Co's reputation and economy as it warns peaceable, tolerant, thinking people to drive right by Chehalis and Centralia. Moreover, that these thugs would bring loaded weapons to the parking lot of a Christian church, imaging a dire threat, is not a whole lot different than the mentality of the Taliban.

I Got Nuthin'

Silly ignorant people. There is no aftifa. It's a figment of Trumps imagination - a false boogieman designed to drive paranoia and loyalty from his followers - all 30%. But, hypothetically even if it was a real organization, do these people really believe a mass of people are going to converge on Napavine??? Come on. A little common sense people!

uintah

You gotta love it: an army of God-fearing folk rising up to smite the infidels-- who, apparently, didn't get the dispatch as they never showed. Stir into this mix a redneck sheriff placating his base by calling others of his constituents (the 70% who choose to wear masks) ovines. Who needs Trevor Noah when we have our own daily show right here in River City?

YourNeighbor

How many trespass warnings were given to the dozens of people who had no permission to be on the Bethel Church parking lot? Snaza threatened everyone with prior restraint against trespassing on Hamilton's property. He did that while surrounded by trespassers on others' private property. We now know what Snaza thinks of people who don't think as he does. Now, we also know he plays favoritism for those who do, don't we?

Farm animal, indeed.

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