Occupy Eugene Celebrates Milestone, Will Continue Protest



occupyeugenemedia.org, @OccupyEugene

Occupy Eugene Celebrates Milestone, Will Continue Protest

On December 14th, Occupy Eugene reached a milestone in its ongoing protest after the City Council offered another extension of the municipal camping ban exemption, which has afforded the movement a legal occupation site since late October. In contrast to the fate of many Occupies in other cities, Occupy Eugene continues to actively engage with city officials, seeking partnership in addressing both acute and systemic social and economic issues.

Occupy Eugene presented the City Council with a proposal formulated in its consensus-based General Assembly, requesting an extension of the camping ban exemption to afford it more time to continue to develop its innovative community-centered social justice project. In response, the city agreed to extend the exemption until January 11, 2012. The city also committed an estimated $300,000 to fund various programs targeting issues highlighted by Occupy Eugene, but not directly to the movement itself, including $100,000 earmarked for expanded “wet-bed” facilities and areas modeled after the existing Egan Warming Centers to protect the city’s unhoused population from exposure on particularly cold nights.

Although this expenditure marks an increase in the city’s overall social service funding, and opens the possibility of reversing a years-long trend of cutting such expenditures, the city-proposed plan is far from perfect. “Many of us are encouraged by the City Council’s obvious commitment to addressing issues of obvious injustice in the community,” said Occupy Eugene member Shaun Haskins. “But the heavy emphasis on police costs as part of the overall package is disheartening because so much more good could be done with that hundred thousand or so dollars.” Councilor Chris Pryor (Ward8) seems to agree, at least in principle: “I’d rather spend money on helping folks…I think it is a good thing that we are talking about something that we really haven’t managed to focus on before. I do not want to support a position that moves everybody back into the bushes and back under the bridges.”

For Occupy Eugene, the city’s decision signals the beginning of a new phase of engagement with both the city government and the community. “The gains we made today with the City Council show exactly how our model of protest combined with service can be effective in shaping both the priorities of our elected officials and the public conversation in directions that more expressly serve the acute needs of our community,” explained OE member Jamil Jonna. “At the same time, it highlights the fact that our movement’s goal is a more fundamental, systemic change, targeting the root causes of which homelessness and chronic poverty are only symptoms.”

This press release has been approved by the General Assembly of Occupy Eugene.