Emails to the Eugene City Council available under the Oregon Public Records and Meetings laws shine a light on the holiday uproar within the city of Eugene caused by Occupy Eugene (OE) protests.
Dec. 12. Don Bishoff, a retired Register-Guard columnist who followed the homeless issue for decades, praises the Occupy camp for “providing a relatively safe place for the homeless to stay, free from fear of being victimized by crime.”
Dec. 13. OE activist Alley Valkyrie disputes the Eugene police claim that the homeless camp has increased crime. She said the camp makes crime involving the homeless more visible and more reported. “There isn’t more crime, simply more accountability.”
Valkyrie said fires at the camp are needed to avoid “freezing to death.” (Councilor George Poling blocked other councilors from allowing warming fires using a parliamentary maneuver.) Valkyrie said it was “inexcusable” for the council to prevent many OE protesters from speaking at a recent public hearing.
Dec. 20, 2:48 pm. City Manager Jon Ruiz tells “colleagues” he was notified of a “possible homicide” at OE last night. (The police later decided the death wasn’t a murder.) Ruiz said he briefed Mayor Kitty Piercy at 12:30 am, and she asked to schedule a council meeting. At the noon meeting, Ruiz “strongly recommended” the council vote to close the camp and they did.
Dec. 20, 5:30 pm. District Attorney Alex Gardner writes to “applaud” the council’s decision to evict a homeless camp he calls a “dangerous shanty town.” He claims dispersing the homeless “will reduce violence.” Gardner admits “many remain concerned” for the evicted homeless, but he says he has “faith” they will get help, without describing exactly how.
Dec. 20, 6:19 pm. Robin Saxton, a 25-year resident paying taxes on four houses, writes “shame on you all” for “throwing the homeless out in their tiny tents to freeze and die in parking lots!” He writes, “Meantime you're making your smug way home to your safe and comfortable lives, where you congratulate yourselves.”
Dec. 22. Local activist Ruth Duemler comments on the eviction of the homeless. “I guess they should just walk to the nearest cemetery.” Duemler forwards a previous email from OE activist Lauren Regan.
On the day of the eviction, Regan writes: “homeless are freaked out and heading into woods and bridges for fear of arrest ... social services has indicated they won't be providing any transitional services other than bus tickets out of town!!!!!!”
Dec. 26. Pual Cauthorn emails a link to a video of a protest by people wearing tents at Councilor Poling’s home.
“Would you want every group you anger with your votes staging protests on your front lawn?” Cauthorn asks the mayor and council.
Dec. 27, 7:13 pm. Real estate broker John Brown emails Mayor Kitty Piercy. “I can only imagine the terror in anyone’s mind having up to 25 masked people pounding on your home on Christmas night.” Brown calls for providing security to Poling.
Dec. 27, 8:18 pm. Piercy emails Brown and Ruiz and his assistant. “I certainly hope if Councilor Poling experiences any terror or need for protective services, he will let us know. Each councilor must be able to express his views or vote without fear of harm.”
Dec. 27, 8:55 pm. Poling emails the mayor and council:
“Having heard nothing from the Mayor or City Manager over the past couple of days, I finally called the City Manager this afternoon and requested immediate security measures.” Poling condemned “the threats, intimidation and fear this has caused to me, my wife and my family — including the anxiety caused to our three dogs by the tent wearing masked goons.” Poling, who has worked as a federal screener at the airport, called the event “terrorizing” and praised police for quickly providing extra patrols of his house.
Dec. 28, 3:29 pm. Brown emails Piercy thanking her for her email about the Poling protest. He said the protest was against Poling’s free speech. “I wonder why the ACLU did nothing.”
Dec. 28, 4:15 pm. Piercy forwards Poling and other councilors a statement she has issued to the press condemning the protest at his house. “The participants broke the law and crossed the line. I have dealt with controversial issues myself and know that when a person’s home becomes the object of protests, it can be very personally threatening to both the individual and his or her family. I strongly believe that each councilor has the right to express his or her opinions, to represent their constituents, and to vote without fear.”
Dec. 28, 7:27 pm. Councilor Andrea Ortiz emails the mayor and council, forwarding a letter to the editor she wrote condemning the Poling protest. “At first report, I wasn't really sure how I felt about this,” Ortiz wrote. But Ortiz said she talked to the mayor and Piercy “pointed out how intimidation
has been used for centuries on getting people to change their political views.”
Dec. 28, 7:46 pm. Piercy emails Ortiz and the other councilors about the letter to the editor. “Perfect Andrea ... I've sent several messages out expressing my strong belief that this kind of personal invasion of George and Glenda's home is not acceptable.”
Dec. 28, 10:17 pm. Councilor Chris Pryor emails back. “I know I’m coming late to the conversation, but you know that I stand with you in repudiating this kind of poor behavior.” Pryor writes that the Poling protest may hurt council efforts on human service funding. “It only takes a few thoughtless acts on the part of a few misguided individuals to set it back and stall much needed community support.”
Dec. 28, 10:36 pm. Piercy emails councilors, “I agree it's important together we all send a clear message about how wrong this incident was.”
Dec. 30, 9:15 am. Councilor Mike Clark emails Poling that he saw an online video of a sidewalk protest by topless women outside Poling’s house last night.
Dec. 30, 9:37 am. Poling emails Clark, “I am not aware of any ‘demonstration.’” Poling calls the person who made a video of the previous protest a “terrorist (Please refer to the dictionary for the definition of terrorist, terrorism).”
Poling, a former sheriff’s deputy and Marine, warns that if further protests happen at his house “we will exercise our right as any other citizen to take the appropriate steps to defend ourselves and property.”
Dec. 30, 10:30 am. After viewing a video link sent by Clark, Poling emails the mayor and council stating he is “demanding that the city furnish me and my wife 24 hour protection.” Poling said he is “demanding the kitty immediately call on her ‘people’ to put a stop to further harassment, intimidation and terrorism.” Poling faults Mayor Kitty Piercy for not acting immediately to decry the protest as she had “when there was a rock thrown through a synagogue window and a swastika painted on playground equipment.”
Poling blasts Piercy’s statement to the press condemning the earlier protest at his house as “a condescending, disingenuous statement which started out by praising the OE for bringing attention to the homeless and poor.” Poling said the statement was “insulting” and added, “don't even try and placate me by trying to give some explanation.”
Dec. 30, 10:30 am. Piercy emails Poling and other councilors that she thought he was “getting the security you felt was required.” Piercy wrote, “I do support the Occupy movement and dealing with social inequities. However, I have been very clear I don't support going to anyone's home to demonstrate ... I have responded to the event at your home numerous times.”
Piercy continued that with her statement against the previous protest, “I surely did not mean to insult you at all.” Piercy said she doesn’t know how to contact those involved in the topless protest. “I am not directly connected to OE.” She said she could try to contact some people involved in the former homeless camp, but, “I am concerned that anything I might do would only be more upsetting to you.”
Dec. 30, 12:58 pm. Piercy emails Poling that she contacted human rights groups about a “community response” to the protests and tried calling him “but no pick-up.”
Dec. 30, 1:24 pm. A woman who asks not to be named for fear of retaliation emails Piercy that “occupy Eugene terrified my children” with the topless protest. The woman said she and her husband drove by the end of the protest in their pickup truck with her two boys, age 6 and 8. The 6-year-old “cried” afterward and feared the protesters would follow them, according to the woman. The 8-year-old wasn’t as upset, she said. The woman said they flagged down a police officer near the protest. “He was aware that something was happening, but he didn't seem concerned.” She faults Piercy for supporting Occupy.
Jan. 1. Piercy emails the woman that she doesn’t support the protests at Poling’s house at all. “Quite the opposite.” She said the Poling protests appear to be by a “splinter group” and not representative of “the 2,000 regular folks who participated in the march” by Occupy Eugene. “The people I met were not particularly radical and certainly not violent in the least.”
Judging from online posts, it appears the splinter group has caused “quite an internal argument with OE,” Piercy wrote.
“It’s sure having a lot of OE people move away quickly.”
Piercy writes with the Occupy protesters at the homeless camp, “EPD (police officers) found them very peaceful and cooperative.” Piercy said, “We kept on taking the advice of EPD until Dec. 14 when they felt things were changing, especially in terms of some new folks who turned up and in terms of people with really challenging problems. Council agreed but tried to give time through Christmas. Obviously with the unfortunate death of the man, council decided to close it down sooner at my request.”
“I agree about the Polings and of course your family,” Piercy wrote about the later protests. “You should see some of the things people say to me.”
Jan. 3. The woman emails Piercy disagreeing that the homeless camp was peaceful or cooperating with police and cites problems reported by police. The woman attaches a link to another topless protest march that she said was “dangerous” because it could have distracted drivers.
The nighttime video features a mock arrest of five masked, topless women, “free-speech provocateurs,” at City Hall. A protester proclaims, “Good citizens of Eugene, fear not: the Vagilutionaries have been detained. Their reign of terror is over, and the streets of our city are safe once again ... it will be a pretty, pretty long time before those bothersome nipples ever again see the light of day.”
The woman emailing Piercy writes of the protest, “These are not compassionate, caring people who want to help the homeless and poorly treated people. They are evil.”
Jan. 5. Poling emails the mayor and council with an “apology” for public statements he made that he will no longer cooperate with the mayor and other councilors. “While the nerves of me and my family are still raw, which influenced my comments, I will continue to work with each and every one of you,” Poling writes. “I apologize for any comments I have made that would cause you to feel otherwise. It is time to put this entire episode behind us and move forward together.”
On Jan 9, Occupy activist Valkyrie stood before the council and blasted Poling’s description of the topless protest as terrorism. “You had a role in terrorizing at least 150 members of our community who had a safe place to sleep and eat until you voted to shut down their camp,” she said. Valkyrie said city money spent to build a fence around Poling’s house would have been better used to protect homeless women who fear rape “than to protect you from bare breasted women who choose to exercise their constitutional freedom.”