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Occupy Eugene Media Group

SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep) – PROMETHEUS FUNDRAISER – January 2013

Toward the end of the fourth and final Occupy Eugene camp at Washington/Jefferson Park, it started to get cold and some people started to get sick. Those of us with a house to retreat to easily found protection from the elements, but for those with nowhere else to go, the winter temperatures were more than just an annoyance, but a potentially serious health threat.


At this point, relations with the city and the police had reached a delicate détente, and one consistent point of contention was the legality of open flames. The authorities were adamant about campfires being strictly prohibited, and a guaranteed “dealbreaker” with regards to their uneasy tolerances with what was already seen, in their eyes, to be an illegal campsite.


But camp leaders protested, and at least one or two MDs involved with Occupy concurred: the immediate threat posed by pneumonia or bronchitis brought on by the cold damp weather was, by far, a much more significant danger than the far less likely event of a fire mishap, under the circumstances. All of our testimony to this effect was enough to get the City Council to make an emergency, temporary exemption to the open flame rule. But though we had a clear majority of councilors willing to support this, the process by which this emergency vote was to be added to the agenda for consideration in the first place required a unanimous vote, one that was confounded by a single “NAY”, from a certain George Poling, councilor for north Eugene’s Ward 4.


And thus, because of a single well-sheltered individual’s reluctance, a sizable group of barely-sheltered folks were consigned to otherwise avoidable suffering, shivering all throughout the night and risking sickness on top of that. And the sheer irony of this Bizarroworld scenario struck me then and there like a 2 X 4 upside the head: how utterly surreal, to observe own group of humans not at risk of freezing to death dictating to another group of humans far more vulnerable than them, that they are not allowed to warm themselves with what was readily available.


The irony approached mythical proportions: wasn’t fire considered to be the very first technology, the very moment our species transitioned from mere animal into something supposedly so much more? The gall on the part of “our leaders’ by which one set of people was condemning another to live like animals in a most literal way was staggering. And I thought of the story of the titan Prometheus and realized how a propos it was toward the circumstance. Prometheus who was condemned to bear the terrible torture of having his newly-regenerated liver pecked out daily by an eagle, all because he had pity on the winter-stricken humans and deigned to steal Zeus’ fire on their behalf.


The narrative was almost frighteningly appropriate; so, I arranged some bits and pieces of some original instrumental music that hadn’t yet found a purpose, finished the lyrics to “Naked Winter Sky” (and hour before the show opened!), wrote a parody of “Cold Rain & Snow,” and basically just held a pencil in my hand while the script seemed to write itself. And with the help of two amazing students of mine, Eden Pierce (bass, keyboards) and Finn Hurtado (drums), the Occupy Eugene Library presented a delightfully provocative mini-musical titled “The Trial of Prometheus.”


In the sprit of interactive, community theater, all activists were invited to choose their favorite god or goddess from the Greek pantheon and write their own testimony regarding Prometheus’ “crime of compassion” toward humanity. Special thanks to those who stepped up: fellow Occupy Librarian Art Bollman (Hades), Sabra Marcroft (Ceres), John Monroe (Apollo), Dale Kegley (Poseidon), Carla Newbre (Athena), Pleado Wellman (Hermes), and of course the inimitable Derek Lewis as Prometheus. I played the role of Zeus (as well as piano and guitar), and keeping the whole circus together was my dearest Jen Frenzer, also of the Occupy Library Committee, as producer. Special thanks goes out to Cozmic Pizza who hosted the event, and for Tomo the Samurai for donating the large origami eagles for the opening scene (puppeteer-ed by dancers Geneva Gill and her daughter Anycia along with Sophie Butterfly and her mother Lotus).  Thank you also to Jana Thrift and Tom for taping and editing the video. And finally, props to Jean Stacy for her role in organizing protest camps known as Safe & Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep (SLEEPS), for which the production raised over $600.


[UPDATE: the same Council now permits open flame warming areas at sanctioned emergency shelter rest stops, incidentally. Campers have worked with the fire marshall to comply with safety guidelines that were already being complied with during the protest.]


zeusPrometheusPrometheus – Video by Jana Thrift – December 21, 2012

Photos of Prometheus – by Dusk McNeely – December 21, 2012


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