Judge Rules for Free Speech

From the Register Guard

By Greg Bolt

The Register-Guard



SLEEPS protestors Peter Grotticelli (left) and Bethany Clement walk their tents down Sixth Avenue in Eugene from their campsite near the Ferry Street Bridge to the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza at the Lane County Courthouse after being evicted by Eugene Police. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard)

Lane County is 0-for-2 in its efforts to control the use of a public plaza after a judge on Thursday threw out trespassing citations issued to 21 protesters earlier this year, again saying the action violated their free speech rights.

It’s the second time in a week that the county’s actions against protesters in the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza have been found to violate the state and federal constitutions. Last week, the same judge dismissed a trespassing charge against a single protester who remained in the plaza after the county said it had to be closed for cleaning.

Eugene attorney Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, said the two rulings show that government must tread lightly when it comes to rules that put any kind of burden on the rights of people to assemble and speak out.

“Our intentions in bringing this case before the court in this way was to have a court rule on what our constitutional rights are at this very public forum in this community,” she said. “We will continue to zealously advocate on behalf of our community’s First Amendment right to exercise free speech and to protest.”

Anne Marie Levis, a spokeswoman for Lane County, said county officials hadn’t had a chance to review the ruling Thursday and couldn’t yet comment on it. But she said the curfew rule that sparked the protest is likely to come up for discussion by county commissioners at a future meeting, possibly in two weeks.

Some protesters returned to the Morse Plaza Thursday night, both to continue a protest over the rights of homeless people and to celebrate the court ruling. The group moved to the plaza from a site under the Ferry Street Bridge next to East Sixth Avenue, where they had been camping to protest police treatment of homeless people.

“We’re exercising our rights to freedom of speech and that was our goal, to protest for the homeless for safe places to sleep,” said James Chastain, a protester who was helping to erect tents at the plaza early Thursday evening.

Thursday’s court ruling centered on a county-imposed curfew on the Morse plaza that closes the public space from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. In January, a group of activists defied the curfew in a protest over free speech rights and the county asked Eugene police to cite them for trespassing, charges that were then challenged in court.

Attorneys for the protesters asked Eugene Municipal Court Judge Karen Stenard to dismiss the citations, saying the curfew does not pass constitutional muster. In her ruling issued Thursday, Stenard did not strike down the curfew itself but agreed that the citations were unconstitutional.

Stenard said she empathized with the county’s challenges in maintaining its facilities with a limited budget and its claim that the curfew was not aimed at stifling speech but keeping the plaza safe and clean.

“Nonetheless, enforcement of a curfew which closes the very area that the county designated ‘Free Speech Plaza’ (much of which is barely distinguishable from a sidewalk) for a third of every day significantly limited defendants’ rights to speech and assembly, regardless of the curfew’s intent,” the judge wrote in her decision.

Even under the least stringent analysis of the case, “the curfew does not withstand constitutional scrutiny,” Stenard wrote.

Regan said she is willing to work with county officials to rewrite the curfew rule in a way that doesn’t infringe on people’s legal rights. She said that would be cheaper for the county than facing another lawsuit in state or federal court asking that the rule itself be revoked.

Stenard stopped short of saying that the curfew rule itself was unconstitutional, limiting her ruling only to the 21 citations issued in this particular case. She suggested that a city judge might not have jurisdiction to rule on the constitutionality of what is essentially an internal county rule.

But given the judge’s analysis, it’s unlikely anyone else brought before her for violating the curfew under similar circumstances would be convicted. Regan said that essentially makes the rule unenforceable, and she called on the county to change it.

“If there is common sense among any of our county officials, they will sit down with us and figure out a way to resolve this situation in a way that protects the constitutional rights of all our community members,” she said.

The curfew was added to the county’s administrative procedures manual by former county administrator Liane Richardson, who has since been fired over alleged improprieties in how she was paid. She made the change in December after she shut down a protest, claiming she had smelled human feces in a planter and needed to have the plaza cleaned, an argument that Stenard also rejected as unconstitutional in her earlier ruling.

Although the curfew rule allows people to apply to use the plaza at night, Regan said the county did not have any clear procedures or application form for requesting an exception and no clear criteria for deciding whether to grant such requests. One protester testified that she tried to get a permit to use the plaza at night but was told she didn’t need one and that county employees seemed unaware of any process for granting one.

Stenard said she found that testimony troubling and indicated it weighed in her finding that curfew citations were unconstitutional.

“Any permitting or exception process should be so transparent and accessible that all government staff involved in the process are well aware of it, can explain it to the public and laypersons can navigate the requirements,” she wrote. “The curfew imposed by the administrative procedures manual is unconstitutional as applied to the defendants.”

Reporter Samuel Stites contributed to this report.

“We’re exercising our rights to freedom of speech, and that was our goal.”

— James Chastain, protester

Press Release: Municipal Court Hearings Set for Occupy Eugene and SLEEPS Activists

Press Release



Contact: Lauren Regan, CLDC, 541-687-9180; Alley Valkyrie, 541-954-3779

Municipal Court Hearings to Dismiss Charges Against 20 Free Speech Activists

In Eugene Municipal Court, Courtroom 2, on Monday, July 15 at 9 a.m., Judge Karen Stennard will hear arguments regarding motions to dismiss criminal charges based upon constitutional challenges to the underlying arrests. Defense attorneys will argue that the Court must dismiss second-degree criminal trespass charges against 20 activists who refused to leave the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in Eugene, in two separate incidents last winter as they were exercising First Amendment rights to assemble and protest government action. Lane County officials are expected to deliver testimony justifying the County’s decision to restrict access to the plaza.

The cases stem from two incidents that took place during a campaign at the plaza organized by an offshoot of Occupy Eugene called SLEEPS, to challenge Eugene’s camping ban and allow unhoused people access to safe and legal places to sleep. Both cases will rely upon an assertion by defendants that their actions were protected by both Oregon and U.S. Constitutional rights to protest.

According to Civil Liberties Defense Center attorney Lauren Regan, the Wayne Morse Plaza is a “traditional public forum,” which means the government’s ability to restrict activities there is extremely limited. Regan adds that similar charges of trespass against SLEEPS activists for refusing to leave the plaza in front of the Federal Building on 7th and Pearl in December were dropped by the Federal government.

The first case to be heard on Monday concerns an incident on December 13 when one protester refused to leave the Free Speech Plaza after it had been closed by an “indefinite closure order” issued by Lane County Administrator Liane Richardson. In another gross overstep by Richardson, she imposed the order without any prior consultation with Lane County Commissioners. The closure order followed a two-day lawful demonstration by SLEEPS at the plaza. At the time of the closure, Richardson alleged SLEEPS demonstrators damaged the building and created a bio-hazard. Other County staff people denied the activists were responsible for the minor incidents. Richardson also ordered the plaza surrounded by an iron barricade.

The SLEEPS protesters vigorously denied Richardson’s claims and said no evidence existed to support them. On December 13, one day after the closure, a group of activists entered the closed barricaded plaza to protest the closure of this revered Free Speech Plaza, and, when ordered to leave by the Eugene police, one protester remained and was cited for trespass. After this arrest, Richardson amended the long standing guidelines for the Wayne Morse Plaza and imposed a night time curfew that bans any First Amendment activity at the plaza.

The second case concerns an incident on January 7, when more than 100 activists remained at the Free Speech Plaza after the curfew took effect at 11 p.m. After the Eugene police ordered the protesters to leave, 21 remained and were cited for trespass. The protesters cited ranged in age from 16 to 68 and included a recent war veteran. The group contended that they have the right to protest at the plaza regardless of the hour and that recent lawsuits affirmed the law that curfews are generally deemed unconstitutional restrictions upon First Amendment rights. SLEEPS activist Jean Stacey said that the group was taking a stand for the right to protest and for the rights of un-housed people. On Monday, Judge Stennard will hear arguments from several defense attorneys regarding motions to dismiss the charges against 19 of this group.

This press release is from the Communications Committee of Occupy Eugene that has been empowered to speak on behalf of the larger Occupy Eugene body.


Tug of War at EWEB Earth Day Celebration: Press Release

Contact: Scott Fife at iconoclasmo.scott@gmail.com541-232-2868
Occupy Eugene Earth Day Event Asks, “Is EWEB’s Green Image Just Greenwashing?”
April 18, 2013 – This Saturday, April 20, during EWEB’s 2013 Earth Day Celebration and beginning at 1 pm, Occupy Eugene will stage a “Tug of War” at 500 E. 4th Avenue in Eugene. Participants in this demonstration of the “pull between good and bad energy” want to encourage EWEB to move towards sustainable, decentralized power sources and farther away from the unsustainable, destructive, centralized power that currently comprises the majority of its energy portfolio.
Occupy organizer Scott Fife explains the symbolism of the exercise: “The survival of humanity will be decided in a total tug of war smackdown between good energy versus bad energy sources.” Fife suggests that EWEB greenwashes power sources that may not be so green by making unsubstantiated or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of its products, services, and technology.
At the event, Occupy Eugene will distribute handouts to inform and encourage people in our community to call their EWEB representatives and demand that EWEB’s green energy be “truly green.” In addition, a participant in the role of sportscaster will introduce and provide commentary on the bout between bad energy (fracking, nuclear, coal, biomass generation, and large dam hyrdopower) and good energy (solar, ocean-wave and tidal, biogas, and geothermal).
This press release is from the Communications Committee of Occupy Eugene that has been empowered to speak on behalf of the larger Occupy Eugene body.

Press Release: Occupier Scales Chain Link Fence to Protest City’s Lack of Action on Homelessness



Contact: Gwendolyn Iris

Photo credit: Gregory Walker

On Saturday, November 17, Occupy Eugene activist Gwendolyn Iris climbed a $70,000 chain link fence that bars access to Eugene’s old City Hall near 8th and High and chained herself to it in protest of the City’s lack of action for the unhoused.

“This is a symbolic action on my part,” Iris said. “I want to call attention to the fact that there’s been little to no progress made on the agreements that the city made with members of Occupy Eugene last year around the closing of the site [Washington-Jefferson Park]. There was supposed to be $100,000 allocated towards a new wet bed facility.” A wet bed facility is a shelter that provides a place for chronically alcoholic homeless men and women to sleep.

Iris also said a women’s and children’s shelter had been discussed at the time the City closed the Occupy Eugene site at Washington-Jefferson Park.

The breaching of the old City Hall’s new fence came after a day of activism, called Act Against Apathy, spearheaded by Iris and others in Occupy Eugene. The day’s events included a rally during which homeless people and their advocates spoke, recited poetry, marched, and held a memorial at the steps of the old City Hall for the homeless people who have died on the streets of Eugene in the last two years. Activists also served hot meals at a kitchen set up in the Park Blocks to anyone who needed one.

Iris plans to stay until Monday when she has to return to her job. She encourages people to come see her and talk about the problems of homelessness and possible solutions. “While we’re angry,” she says, “at the same time we are also solution-based. We want to help make things right. We are not expecting it all from the city.”

This press release is from the Communications Committee of Occupy Eugene that has been empowered to speak on behalf of the larger Occupy Eugene body.


PRESS RELEASE: Occupy Eugene Begins New Occupation…

Press Release Logo







Contact: reid-at-rbkdesign.com, Reid Kimball (415) 632-9982
occupyeugenemedia.org, @OccupyEugene

Occupy Eugene Begins New Occupation by Cleaning Up Bank of America’s Mess
Occupy Eugene’s next occupation will be a little closer to home. The Occupy Housing and Foreclosures Action Committee (OH-FAC!) will clean up trash that is piling up on the steps of a vacant foreclosed home in downtown Eugene, this Friday at 3:30 p.m. All media are invited to attend to witness the event and interview participants.

Later in the evening OH-FAC! will join the Fed Up Committee to occupy the lawn of the property to protect it from further vandalism. Occupiers will stay with the property for as long as it takes to solve the deteriorating situation.

The home was foreclosed on, most likely illegally, according to documents found by activists in the Lane County Deeds and Records office. According to neighbors, it has been vacant for nearly two years, and they have called police on squatters who vandalized the inside and outside of the property over the years.

Occupy Eugene activists worked with the neighbors to clean up the mess several weeks ago, but, since then, more trash and excrement has begun to pile up again.

“Enough is enough. We will present compelling evidence of forged mortgage documents making this foreclosure illegal. This home serves as an example of why we need a moratorium to allow foreclosure victims to stay in their homes at all costs. We can’t allow Wall Street banks to illegally foreclose on us and blight neighborhoods throughout Eugene,” says activist Reid Kimball.

Reid continued, “In addition to cleaning up the property, Occupy Eugene has support of the neighbors for a small number of people to occupy the lawn of this vacant property to engage the community on the housing and foreclosure crisis.”

This press release is from the Communications Committee of Occupy Eugene that has been empowered to speak on behalf of the larger Occupy Eugene body.


Federal Government Denies Occupy Eugene Right to Protest: Gravely Curtails First Amendment Rights for All


EUGENE, OR: The U.S. General Services Administration Regional Director issued a letter of denial in response to a permit application submitted by Occupy Eugene members seeking to continue their public protest at the corner of 7th and Pearl Streets in Eugene, Oregon. Occupy Eugene members have stated they will continue their protest without a permit and will risk arrest to challenge the restriction upon their First Amendment Rights.

On May 1, 2012, members of Occupy Eugene (“OE”) began a protest at the Federal Plaza location at 7th and Pearl Streets. The demonstrators have created a vibrant space that includes a table and awning where they talk with people and distribute literature regarding the many political issues represented by OE. The corner also contains many political signs and flags on topics such as “support our vets,” corporate greed and corruption, and environmental concerns. Community members have expressed their opinions on this corner regularly for decades without governmental interference. The local Federal Protective Services officer told OE that they were welcome at the location for as long as they wanted as long as the protestors did not sleep at the location and obeyed the law. He requested that Occupy Eugene apply for a 60-day permit to document the 24-hour a day protest and provide the building manager with a point of contact. OE applied for the permit, agreed to the condition that its members would not sleep at the location, and the permit was granted. OE has been peacefully demonstrating at this location for the last 70 days without any problems or incidents. Several other community groups have also continued to use the public space without any conflicts.

Shortly before the 60-day permit expired, the Regional Director of the GSA contacted OE to inform them that they would need to apply for a new 30-day permit and that they would only be allowed to protest from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Director claimed that the local federal officials had granted OE’s 24 hour a day permit “by mistake,” and that as a result of ‘Occupy problems in other states,’ they were no longer allowing protests 24 hours a day on federal property. The Director did not cite to any problems or complaints with the OE protest. OE then submitted a new 30 day permit application requesting the same terms and conditions as their prior permit, including a 24-hour presence. On July 9, 2012, the GSA Director denied OE’s permit application stating, “The primary reason that the permit is not approved is that it seeks to maintain a presence within the plaza for 24 hours a day for a period of 30 days.” The Director now states that he intends to curtail the right to protest between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

“The denial does not provide a single compelling governmental reason to restrict the constitutional rights of the Occupy Eugene protest,” states attorney Lauren Regan of the Civil

For immediate release: July 10, 2012

Liberties Defense Center. “In order for the government to curtail a person’s First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly, they must have specific important interests that override or trump our First Amendment rights. There have been no complaints or allegations of interference or property damage by the protestors, and this corner is one of the most widely used public forums in Eugene. Constitutional rights do not expire at 10pm. The government cannot dictate the manner of lawful political expression.” Regan explains.

Even more offensive to the constitutional rights of all citizens, is the statement made by the GSA Director that anyone who seeks to protest on any federal property—whether a public forum or not—will need to apply for a permit to do so. Historically, only large assemblies or groups using amplification have been required to apply for permits to utilize the free speech areas at both the old and new federal courthouses, small groups or spontaneous assemblies were never hassled about obtaining government permits to protest. Regardless of whether a single person wishes to hold a sign, beat a drum, or simply stand in silent protest for an hour, the government is now demanding that these individuals first ask permission to exercise their constitutional rights. “This is a prior restraint on the constitutional rights of citizens seeking to exercise their rights to protest at a quintessential public forum– a place where your 1st amendment rights are most protected from government encroachment. If this is truly the government’s new policy, it is a grave curtailment of the rights of people in Eugene.” Regan asserts.

The GSA Director stated that he would be delivering a notice to vacate the protest area today because the demonstrators no longer have a valid permit. If they do not leave by tomorrow, they will face arrest for lawfully protesting in a public forum without a permit that the GSA has approved. “Many citizens are willing to stand up to challenge this constitutional threat and will risk arrest and prosecution to do so. It will be up to the Federal Court to defend the Constitutional rights of the people.” Regan added.

Lauren Regan, Attorney & Executive Director, Civil Liberties Defense Center (Eugene)

541-687-9180; lregan@cldc.org


Press Release-Invitation to Walk with Trayvon Martin


Contact: press@occupyeugenemedia.org
occupyeugenemedia.org, @OccupyEugene

Invitation to Walk with Trayvon Martin

Occupy Eugene in collaboration with the ACLU, Civil Liberties Defense Center, NAACP, Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network and CALC (the Community Alliance of Lane County), invites the public to a Walk with Trayvon on Monday, April 2, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Campbell Center, 2nd and High streets.

After gathering at the Campbell Center, the group will walk to the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza for a vigil and rally featuring Mayor Piercy.

Organizers have chosen to start the march in the area of Eugene that was home to Eugene’s first black neighborhood. The community was demolished in 1949.

Fergus Mclean of OE says, “Walking the streets of Sanford, Florida cost Trayvon Martin his life. This is not the America we want to live in. America, Wake Up!”

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African-American who was shot and killed by a 28-year-old Neighborhood Watch volunteer who claimed Martin looked suspicious. The shooter, George Zimmerman, has yet to be charged with any crime, and the incident has sparked national outrage touching issues of racism and politics, particularly with the “Stand Your Ground” law, which critics call the “shoot first” law.

Everyone is encouraged to wear a hoody and to come Walk with Trayvon.


Occupy Eugene to City, “Show Us the Money”






Contact: press@occupyeugenemedia.org
occupyeugenemedia.org, @OccupyEugene

Occupy Eugene to City, “Show Us the Money”

As freezing temperatures return once again to the Eugene area we continue to be concerned about the 4,000+ homeless people in Lane County and wonder how they will survive. While many of us are sharing this Valentine’s day with our loved ones, we wonder if the City will show that they too “have a heart” by living up to their commitments to help our citizens in need.

During a Dec. 14 meeting, the City Council of Eugene passed a proposal to spend up to $100,000 to open a 7 night a week “Egan-like” facility to help those with mental health and addiction issues throughout the winter.

Then, two days before Christmas, the City moved in to close down our occupation site in Washington-Jefferson park that had been providing shelter, safety, and an estimated 500-800 hot meals per day to people in need.

While the City did open an emergency shelter at the Lane County Fairgrounds on Dec. 22 to accept some of the people that were displaced by the closure of our camp at Washington-Jefferson, that shelter only stayed open for 2 days closing on Christmas Eve morning and sending people out into the streets to fend for themselves.

Feb. 14 marks two months since the City Council voted to approve funding for a temporary “Egan-like” facility, and to date we have seen unsatisfactory efforts from the city in terms of following through on their own proposal. Was the vote by the City Council just a “Christmas Miracle” meant to make us all feel good for the holidays, or does the City of Eugene actually plan to follow through on their proposal of spending $100,000 to help our most vulnerable citizens make it through the winter?

This press release is from the Communications Committee of Occupy Eugene that has been empowered to speak on behalf of the larger Occupy Eugene body.


Occupy Eugene Press Conference on Stopping Foreclosure Sale

Press Release Logo

Contact: press@occupyeugenemedia.org
occupyeugenemedia.org, @OccupyEugene

Occupy Eugene Press Conference on Stopping Foreclosure Sale
On Monday morning, March 5, Occupy Eugene is holding a press conference at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza outside the Lane County Courthouse, shortly following the 10 a.m. foreclosure auction. Lauren Schickling of Walton, Oregon, will tell her story to the media, and Occupy Eugene will highlight the need for passage of proposed legislation designed to help thousands of Oregonians who are facing foreclosure actions.

Occupy Eugene is helping to stop an alleged act of legalized theft — the fraudulent sale of Mrs. Schickling’s home and property. A flurry of activity will occur in the early morning hours as members of Occupy Eugene work with Mrs. Schickling at both the Federal and County Courthouses in an attempt to stop the foreclosure sale.

Our efforts will begin at the Federal Courthouse where Mrs. Shickling and Occupy Eugene will seek to have a federal judge approve an emergency injunction to stop the scheduled foreclosure auction to be held at 10 a.m. at the Lane County Courthouse. If that fails, Mrs. Schickling is prepared to tell the auctioneer at the Lane County Courthouse that she is paying off the mortgage in full. It is our understanding that if the auctioneer does not honor this statement of new information and immediately cancel the auction, under Oregon law a crime will have been committed.

The Schicklings have been fighting the banks to save their home for several years. They are victims of a common practice called dual-tracking, which is when lenders negotiate loan modification terms with the borrower while simultaneously moving forward with foreclosure, without the borrower’s knowledge. On February 16th the Oregon senate voted 20-10 to approve S.B. 1564 which will ban dual-tracking in Oregon, though efforts are now underway by Representatives Gene Whisnant and Bruce Hanna to give the banks immunity from legal liability for all previous and current dual-tracking actions taken against Oregon homeowners.

Occupy Eugene invites media and supporters to join us at 9:50 a.m. at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza. At 10 a.m., just inside the Lane County Courthouse, the auction will begin and will end in a matter of minutes. Afterward, Mrs. Schickling and members of Occupy Eugene will speak to the media to recap what happened.

This press release is from the Communications Committee of Occupy Eugene which is empowered to speak on behalf of the larger Occupy Eugene body.


Occupy Eugene Medical Re-Occupies Downtown


Contact: press@occupyeugenemedia.org
occupyeugenemedia.org, @OccupyEugene

Occupy Eugene Medical Re-Occupies Downtown

Occupy Medical is on the move again. Beginning February 5th, Eugene Occupy Medical Team will offer free medical services downtown. The Occupy Eugene Medical Team will be setting up a tent in front of the Federal Building at 7th and Pearl to serve the community. The Medical tent will be staffed by volunteers from various branches of the medical committee: doctors, nurses, EMTs, and alternative care professionals. Occupy Medical is open every Sunday 12-5pm.

This press release is from the Communications Committee of Occupy Eugene that has been empowered to speak on behalf of the larger Occupy Eugene body.


Also available in : Spanish