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.