Occupy Eugene moves to the University of Oregon

Late Wednesday night, in an exercise of consensus process and direct democracy, the community known as Occupy Eugene elected to relocate to the University of Oregon campus. After hours of negotiations on Thursday between the University and representatives of Occupy Eugene, it was decided that the occupation would move to the Millrace Park on East 11th Avenue and Franklin. The University has generously supplied the occupation with generators, electricity, and rides from Public Safety to the Park.

Occupy Eugene acknowledges the University for matching the City of Eugene in its openness to communicating with OE and facilitating our ongoing commitment to maintaining a vital, visible, educational community presence.

Many have seen a memo from a Lorraine Davis, Acting Provost of U of O, which enunciates that camping is not permitted at the U of O campus, but that “free speech and active exchange of ideas…are at the foundation of higher education.” We agree. The concepts of free speech and the exchange of ideas are fundamental to higher education. We consider this particular expression of free speech and exchange of ideas to be completely consistent with the University’s mission of teaching and research.

It bears clarification: Occupy Eugene is not a campground. We occupy public space because the occupation is the message. We believe that regular citizens have been disenfranchised in our current political climate, where corporations and wealthy individuals are able to unduly influence our political process. Because of this influence, regular citizens have been deprived of our ability to have an effect on the workings of our government. As a last resort, we are exercising our First Amendment rights to assemble peaceably and petition our government for redress of grievances. By placing our bodies in public space, we are able to make our voices heard. We feel there is no other option available – the occupation is the message.

Therefore, we feel that our presence on or near a public university campus is absolutely in keeping with our message and with the university’s mission. If the “core mission” of the university is teaching and research, we can add to that mission. We would love to learn from the members of the university. We would be happy to teach others about our movement and teach about our own personal stories and struggles. We as citizens have a lot to learn from each other. Exposing students to democracy in action and the exercise of the right to free assembly and free speech is educational.

The underfunding of public higher education in this country means that a university education is, more and more, out of reach for the average family. The UO’s tuition and fees more than doubled in the 10 years between 2001 and 2011, from $4,071 in 2001 to $8,883 this year. Students and families are assuming more debt, just to gain an education which should be available to all. After graduation, this debt (on average, $24,000 per student) becomes a severe burden. Overall student loan debt in the US is set to exceed $1 trillion dollars this year.  Instead of working to keep tuition low, governments have drastically cut funding to public universities and other sources of public education, while giving away billions of dollars to Wall Street banks. Much of the $1 trillion dollars in student debt is held by private banks. Therefore, a substantial part of Wall Street’s profit derives from the chronic underfunding of public education. As one of the principal goals of Occupy Wall Street is to bring attention to these issues, it is appropriate for Occupy Eugene, in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, be present on this public university campus.

Many of our members are UO students, staff, and alumni. We welcome all members of the University community to join our movement and work for change in our society. We hope that Lorraine Davis will visit us and help support the core educational mission of the UO, to teach and to learn from us.

-Occupy Eugene Communications Committee

Occupy the University March and Temporary Occupation

Occupy Eugene will stage an “Occupy the University” rally at 12:00 p.m. this afternoon from the current occupation site at Alton Baker Park to call attention to the rising cost of education, predatory student loans, the lack of employment options for college graduates, and the crippling amounts of debt students must take on for access to the increasingly elusive “American Dream”. A rally will begin at 12:00 p.m. and the march commences at 1:00 p.m. The march will conclude at the University of Oregon, where supporters of Occupy Eugene at the University of Oregon will rally and discuss issues relevant to the Occupy movement and the University community. Details of the new location site will be announced at the staging of the march. Please spread the word about this event, and we hope to see you there.

While Occupy Eugene remains grateful for the City Council’s gracious decision to exempt the organization from the city camping ordinance, the General Assembly voted on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning to make the move based on a combination of organizational, logistical, safety, and visibility concerns. In the days since moving to the occupation site at Alton Baker Park, it has become increasingly clear that the site is not conducive to the sense of community, solidarity, and security that was present at the Park Blocks (8th and Oak Street). It should also be noted that the site at Alton Baker Park was considered, from the start, to be a temporary solution, specifically to avoid displacing the Saturday Market’s local vendors, until a site appropriate for an indefinite occupation could be chosen by the General Assembly. That discussion is ongoing and Occupy Eugene invites community members down to the new occupation site to help choose a location.
Also, please see our editorial in October 27’s Eugene Weekly.

Eugene City Council votes 5-3 in favor of exemption

City of Eugene LogoThe Eugene City Council on Monday evening voted 5-3 in favor of granting Occupy Eugene formal permission to camp at Alton Baker Park through December 15. In all, 22 different speakers stood before the council to present their opinions on exempting Occupy Eugene from the city ordinance that prohibits camping within the city limits. Though there were some in opposition, the majority who spoke voiced their support for the waiver. Citizens expressing their support of the waiver cited everything from the impressive organization of the movement and the profound dialogue the movement has sparked within the broader community, to the invaluable service and sense of purpose the movement has provided to Eugene’s homeless population. Afterwards, Councilor Betty Taylor remarked at how inspirational the public forum had been to her.

City Manager Jon Ruiz and Chief of Police Pete Kerns both recommended the ordinance change to the council. The exemption is based on a provision which states that the City Council may move to exempt a “special event” from the camping ordinance. The majority of the council voting in favor of designating the occupation as a “special event” expressed that they were basing their support on their observations of Occupy Eugene being a healthy, positive force—one that has remained well-organized, crime-free, and respectful to the community. Councilor Alan Zelenka remarked that protest and civil disobedience has only made our country stronger, before adding that he was particularly impressed with how clean Occupy Eugene had left the Park Blocks after making way for the Saturday Market.

Occupy Eugene has been humbled by the incredible outpouring of community support for the Occupy movement. As Councilor George Brown put it, “Yes it is a public park [Alton Baker], it is a public space, and the public is using it. They’re using it as a laboratory for democracy and community dialogue.” It cannot be emphasized too strongly how important this “laboratory for democracy” is at this moment in time. To the extent that Occupy Eugene can help nourish and develop this space, we hope that by continuing and deepening the dialogue, we will not only place a spotlight on the glaring inequalities that exist in the United States and around the world, but develop new, more solidaristic and creative solutions. Only through this dialogue can we begin systematically to address and dismantle the economic injustices so deeply entrenched in a system that has failed so many.

See video of testimony about the exemption from members of the public, and Council’s discussion on this issue.

Meeting between OE & the City Manager and EPD

This message was prepared by two participants of the Friday (10/21) meeting with the City Manager and EPD, which started a discussion about suspending the order for arrests on Friday night and finding a viable site for Occupy Eugene.

The meeting that occurred on Friday morning at 11:00 am was solely for the purpose of opening channels of communication between the City of Eugene and Occupy Eugene, and specifically to address the movement of the occupation site. The meeting was not called by the City, the Eugene Police Department, or Occupy Eugene; all groups were expressing a wish to communicate but no official meeting had been scheduled as of 9:30 pm on Thursday evening—if anything, it was you, the community, that prompted the meeting.

All concerned groups—Occupy Eugene, the City of Eugene, EPD, and individual members of the community working for or representing local social justice nonprofits—expressed the desire to “talk” about 1) how to avoid arrests Friday evening; and 2) how to keep the channels of communication open as the movement grows and puts down roots. Again, no one group nor person attempted to do anything other than protect the right of Occupy Eugene to express political speech without courting arrest.

We were in the room during the 10/21 meeting, which included: the City Manager, Officer Kamkar, Police Chief Kerns, five people from Occupy Eugene, four people representing community non-profits who have also been active participants with Occupy Eugene from the very first GA to present, three community mediators, there only to “facilitate” discussion, and one person I do not know.
 We were present for the entire meeting, and what follows is our recollection of the significant talking points.

  • In a verbal message to Legal, the City of Eugene ordered OE to leave the park blocks by 5pm and indicated that it would not tolerate a reoccupation of any site in the City otherwise there would be arrests. Initially, this was the focal point of discussion but it quickly became clear that the city would in fact tolerate a relocation, and that there would be no arrests. However, they wanted to know where OE would move.
  • OE representatives refused to divulge the Friday march route or potential occupation site(s). They stated unequivocally that they did not have permission from the GA to divulge the location but that a committee had carefully surveyed possible sites in a series of open meetings.
  • No one negotiated anything regarding a future or more permanent site for Occupy Eugene. General discussion about the types of criteria being applied to site selection did happen, but again, the OE representatives did not divulge where Occupy Eugene was moving on Friday afternoon. EPD said they would like to know but they did not press anyone, ever, to divulge that piece of information. All present asked EPD and the City Manager to trust that it would be done respectfully and without violence. The City had been very impressed by the level of organization and safety in the park blocks.
  • OE representatives suggested that the City Manager find a way to avoid “enforcement of the camping ordinance” and the “11:00 pm curfew.” The city manager was willing to find a way.

We have not mentioned the names of the individuals present, only because we have not asked their permission to publish their names or the names of their organizations.

City Council Meeting – Tonight 10/24 at 7:30pm

Location: City Council Chambers – (777 Pearl St.)

The City Manager will be making a proposal to the City Council to permit a temporary Occupy Eugene site at Alton Baker Park (ABP) while the City and OE work to locate a permanent site. Given the fact that OE currently occupies ABP—and is not sure about our future location—OE encourages community members to show up in support of this proposal.

It appears likely that several counselors may not support this proposal so bringing out diverse support for Occupy Eugene to this meeting would be helpful.  Please spread the word.

For background on the earlier meeting between OE, the City Manager and EPD, please see this article.

Occupy Eugene moves to Alton Baker Park

Occupy Eugene has relocated to Alton Baker Park. We thank our community for their continued support, and we hope you will join us at our new location as we continue engaging in this important dialogue.

Community, Solidarity, Protest: March to help defend the free speech rights of the occupy protesters!

This afternoon, October 21, 2011, Occupy Eugene will vacate the downtown park blocks as planned, allowing Saturday Market to operate without interference, and then march to a new occupation site. Occupy Eugene is asking community members to meet at the present occupation site at the corner of 8th & Oak Street at 5 p.m. in order to march in solidarity with them to the new site.

On Thursday afternoon, in a seemingly-sudden departure from their previously cooperative stance, City Manager John Ruiz and Eugene Police told Occupy Eugene that protesters will be cited for ANY camping at ANY location in the city. Police have threatened a “no tolerance” stance should Occupy Eugene set up in another location. The no tolerance policy includes possible arrests.

Negotiations are ongoing with the City Manager and Police, but as this is being written the no tolerance stance still stands. Mayor Kitty Piercy, in response to a flood of concerns regarding the no tolerance stance, took to Facebook to reassure anxious citizens and Occupy Eugene supporters: “Solutions are possible. Patience, please.”

All individuals and union members are invited to stand with us and march. Unions already contacted include: Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF), SEIU Local 503, and a broad range of other unions via the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network (ESSN).

Tour of Shame

Tour of Shame Protest of the BanksTo supplement protests of Bank of America, Occupy Eugene is calling a march from the occupation site (8th and Oak) through downtown. Stops will be made outside of all the infamous banks, bringing attention to the handouts, greed, corruption and cynical political lobbying within the financial industry that has become the status quo.

Occupy Eugene invites the community down to the occupation site for lunch prior to the march, as well as a concert upon returning to the occupation site. We encourage those that cannot make the march (and others) to attend the ongoing (by SEIU Local 503ESSN/Jobs with Justice & Eugene-IWW), weekly Bank of America protests at 3:30pm, 201 E 11th Ave.

WHEN: Thursday, October 20, 2011 12:00 PM.

WHERE: Occupation Site: 8th and Oak St., Eugene, OR

OE facebook invitation.
Bank of America Protest facebook invitation.


Committee Points of Contact for Financial Requests

Attention all Committees:

Please send contact information for who your primary and secondary point of contact for the finance committee will be to oec_finance [at] lists.riseup.net. As discussed at a previous GA, these will be the people that will be the point of contact between your committee and the finance committee for the handling of all financial requests.