“We’re damn proud of our flag, and damn proud of our freedom.”
It was with these words that Jesse Lane, co-founder of Shasta County’s newest community watch group — “Stake in NorCal” — opened the group’s first Flag Day celebration Sunday evening at Redding’s Caldwell Park.
“It’s also the President’s birthday,” Jesse continued, “and some people want to shit on him.”
The crowd of about 50 men, women and children cheered. Some were wearing Stake in NorCal’s newly made signature yellow shirts with #STAKE in bold black letters. Many carried American flags and wore cowboy hats. Yet others were dressed in pro-Trump T-shirts and hats. Little girls wore red, silver and blue spangles in their ponytails. There were Reagan/Bush ‘84 shirts, and State of Jefferson and “don’t tread on me” flags mounted on trucks.
“Let’s sing Trump happy birthday!” one participant called out.
“It’s our turn now!” shouted another.
“Yes, it’s our turn now,” Lane said calmly, keeping the group on track as he presented opening announcements, led the Pledge of Allegiance and asked a pastor to pray.
“We always say a prayer for protection,” Lane said. “You can pray to whoever you want; a rock, a frog, or whatever it is. We don’t care who you pray to.”
Inclusion is a common theme in statements professed by Stake in NorCal members and leaders, both in person on on the group’s Facebook page.
Stake in NorCal was founded only two weeks ago, just before local racial equality protests began. The impetus, Lane told the group, was Stake in NorCal founders’ concerns about reports of “bad people coming to town to do some bad stuff, just like has been happening all around the country.”
The “bad people” and “bad stuff ” were references to what co-founder Ian Smart called “paid protesters” who, he said, often show up at racial equality protests. Smart said he and his group support locals who peacefully protest as a way to practice their constitutional rights, but he is concerned about those from out of town who may be here for the wrong reasons.
Stake in NorCal’s speedy start
Smart told the story of Stake in NorCal’s birth, and rapid growth.
“I got on my computer at 1 in the morning and made the group on Facebook,” he said, ” When I logged back in the next morning at 8 a.m., I had 500 members.”
Over the next week the number of Stake in NorCal Facebook group members burgeoned to thousands. Lane and Smart began looking for ways to vet members, including printing T-shirts to distribute to trusted group members. Vetted group members have worn the yellow shirts at a few recent Redding protests, participating with the mission to help keep the peace during peaceful protests, as well as to hand out bottled water.
On June 2, some Stake in NorCal members volunteered to help keep the peace during Redding’s largest George Floyd protest to date, joining other groups, including some North State militia organizations.
Stake in NorCal creators have ambitious plans in store for their fledgling group. They set up a Go-Fund-Me page to raise $5,000 for the group to help with upcoming group projects, including, said Lane, a website, because “Facebook could kick us off at any minute.”
Stake in NorCal leaders are also initiating the process to become an official 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Lane announced additional priorities, such as helping veterans with things like defensible spaces around homes, and keeping the homeless away from parks that children use, and working on goals with Redding’s City Council, as well as California’s state government.
Some funds will also invest in a special Stake in NorCal Independence Day celebration. “We plan on a peaceful protest, since everything’s been cancelled for COVID,” Lane said. “We’ll have vendors, peaceful messages, songs … We are going to protest against California corruption.”
Stake in NorCal participant David Akman explained his presence at the Sunday evening event.
“I’m here because I’m trying to protect this community,” Akman said. “I’ve been here my whole entire life, and I’m seeing the whole community get torn down because some people’s beliefs matter and other people’s beliefs don’t matter.”
Kimmie Pullen said for her, Stake in NorCal is about family, and about being heard.
“Family values have gone by the wayside,” Pullen said. “We are a small community and we are always bending and curtailing to the bigger cities. We want to make sure American values are brought back and we are able to share them without being looked down upon or called names.”
According to Smart, Stake in NorCal’s founder, the organization is “a group of proud American people.”
During the Flag Day celebration at Caldwell Park, Trump/Pence flags and various sized American flags fluttered in the evening breeze under blue skies as Stake in NorCal members posed for a group photo. Two little girls volunteered to come forward and offer a special message for President Donald Trump on video.
“We’ll tweet it to him,” one woman said.
“Say something from the bottom of your heart,” the videographer told them.
“We love you Trump, and thank you,” said the first girl.
“Happy birthday,” said the second girl. “We hope you have a good one, and just keep on doing what’s right.”
With that, the group sang “Happy Birthday” for Donald Trump, America’s 45th President.
Stake in NorCal ended their Flag Day event by heading with their flags to Redding freeway overpasses at Hilltop Drive and South Bonnyview.
Gathered along sidewalks beside the freeway overpasses, Stake in NorCal members displayed their red, white and blue flags, brightly adorned with stars and stripes that flapped and snapped in the wind.
On the freeway below, passing motorists honked their approval.
Photos below by Steve DuBois