Photo by Jade Yamazaki Stewart

City of Eugene Responds to Friday Night Protest

City and county officials condemn Friday night protests, Eugene enacts temporary curfew

After a Friday night rally morphed into looting and vandalizing, local officials have issued a response and implemented a Saturday night curfew.

Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg and Lane County Chair Heather Buch issued a joint statement condemning the events that unfolded Friday night after protesters angry over the killing  of George Floyd in Minneapolis engaged in looting and vandalizing of businesses in the downtown neighborhood.

“The people who engaged in these acts of violence do not represent our community or the people who were there to advocate for meaningful and needed change,” the joint statement said. “The event started as a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in response to the death of George Floyd.”

The statement added: “We do not condone or accept the destructive acts that took place last night in downtown Eugene. This is not a path to justice. This is a path to more suffering. Nationwide Black, Indigenous and Communities of Color are experiencing higher infection, death rates, job loss and economic instability.

The officials added that they were proud of Eugene Police Department’s “measured response” to the protests. However, the police did launch tear gas to disperse crowds.

And Vinis referenced at the end of the statement of Eugene’s intent to be a City of Kindness, a reference to the coalition of organizations and communities that started with a Spreading Kindness Campaign started in May 2018.

“That calls on us to listen and to respond to one another with open hearts and minds,” she said. “Destruction is not the pathway to realizing our goal to be a welcoming community for everyone. We must work together.”

Less than an hour later, Eugene City Manager Pro Tem Sarah Medary signed an emergency declaration to implement a curfew in downtown Eugene from 9 pm  Saturday, May 30 to 6 am Sunday, May 31.

Eugene’s curfew covers High to Monroe streets, from 13th to 4th Aves. During the curfew, people aren’t permitted to travel on any public street or access any public place. And it even prohibits travel in vehicles, bicycles, on foot, public transit and any other form of transportation.

Violating the city’s curfew could result in a $500 fine, up to 100 days in jail — or both.

Eugene’s curfew follows Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s, which was implemented earlier Saturday, May 30. The ACLU of Oregon issued a statement on Portland’s curfew, saying, “A curfew on the entire city of Portland is an extraordinary measure that will likely lead to selective enforcement. It is not necessary to allow police to intervene in acts of actual lawbreaking.

Eugene’s curfew doesn’t apply to people seeking emergency care, escaping dangerous scenarios, sheltering in place (such as the unhoused), traveling to work or making deliveries.

But Medary said in a statement that the curfew isn’t meant to violate people’s First Amendment.

“This is about protecting the safety of our community,” she said in the statement. “Last night, individuals took advantage of a peaceful protest in response to the death of George Floyd, to inflict damage and destruction on our community. That’s not acceptable. The City fully supports the rights of the protesters and free speech, we do not support illegal behavior that puts our local businesses and community members in harm’s way.”

Due to COVID-19 all restaurants and bars are already required to stop serving at 10 pm during Phase 1.