GOP event flouts state limits on gatherings

An event this Saturday in Oak Harbor encourages people to “pack this park full.”

Advertisements for several conservative events on Whidbey Island this month have caused concern and confusion because it appears they will violate Gov. Jay Inslee’s pandemic-related restrictions on gatherings.

In fact, the advertisement for the “Our America First” event in Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor Saturday encourages like-minded people to “pack this park full” and remains silent on social distancing and masks.

The event is co-sponsored by Tim Hazelo, an Oak Harbor resident and a Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, and a group called Bikers For Trump.

It has more problems than the 10-person limit on social gatherings, which didn’t change with the governor’s latest modification of the rules — except for a boost in numbers allowed at weddings and receptions.

A spokesperson for the city of Oak Harbor said the organizers don’t have a permit to hold the event on public property.

“The event organizers did not obtain a special event permit for this event because the City is not issuing them due to the Governor’s Phase 3 restrictions,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

In addition, state Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, said he was surprised to see he was listed as a speaker at the event. He had his people call the organizers to tell them he has “a conflict.”

“This is fairly typical of Tim,” Muzzall said of Hazelo. “He’s kind of a bull in a China shop.”

The communication director for U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, the Democratic congressman Hazelo is challenging, also indicated that the whole affair was typical of Hazelo.

She listed a few other events he held this year which she claimed “violated public health guidelines and put people at risk.”

“It’s great to see bikers involved in the political process, but this event is one in a series of recent events that fly in the face of health and safety guidelines,” she wrote.

Hazelo did not return a call for comment.

On Oct. 17, the Island County Young Republicans are holding a “Pre-Victory Celebration (Protest).” An announcement for the event says it will be held at Republican commissioner candidate Damian Greene’s property in Clinton, but he said that was only a last-resort option and the group found another location.

Greene, a school board member, said he supports the students’ interest and engagement in politics.

The announcement for the event lists nine speakers and states that food and drink will be be available. It does not say anything about plans for social distancing.

The group Washington 3% is planning a Freedom to Worship Protest at the Deer Lagoon Grange on South Whidbey Oct. 18.

The organizers oppose the state’s restrictions on houses of worship during the pandemic.

“Throughout history tyrannical regimes have sought to restrict, outlaw and persecute the faithful, regardless of the specific faith or denomination,” an announcement of the event states.

Among the speakers listed is Joshua Freed, a candidate for lieutenant governor. In addition, there will be a meet and greet, potluck, prayers and music.

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