The SLEEPS (Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Place to to Sleep) protest is spreading both in physical space and on social media. The protest is centered at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza — or as Lane County is now calling it, the Wayne Morse Terrace. The county has called an emergency session on Sept. 4 to discuss an emergency closure of the plaza and developing an ordinance for an "actual free speech area."
Though the rules for the area have changed over time, county and court documents and press releases have long refered to the entire area as the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza or sometimes the Terrace/Plaza. Congressman Peter DeFazio, who was one of the county commissioners who orginally proposed the Wayne Morse Terrace and the free speech area, tells EW he's not sure changing the name changes the intent of the area.
The recent brouhaha over camping in the plaza, after a Eugene municipal judge ruled the county's closing down the plaza during a previous SLEEPS protest was unconstitutional, centered on the issues of feces as evidence of a health and safety issue. Valkyrie says the good thing about the focus on feces is that it has brought attention to the need for bathrooms downtown. The issue was futher inflamed when a photo of a person allegedly pooping near the SLEEPS protest began circulating after someone from Lane County sent it to right-wing am talk show the Wake Up Call.
Hedin Manus Brugh of SLEEPS says after he saw the pictures he searched every "nook and cranny" of the Free Speech Plaza for where the pooping might have occured, but couldn't find the site. He says SLEEPS keeps a list of its members and the photo being circulated is not someone from SLEEPS. Brugh, who was recently homeless himself, says it's not easy for many SLEEPS members who have often led hard and independent lives on the street, to sign a contract with the group but "at the end of the day we know [being organized] is going to work" and help the homeless have a place to sleep and to use the bathroom.
Homeless and free speech advocate Alley Valkyrie says she did find where the photo was taken — on the other side of the county building from the SLEEPS protest and showed the spot to an EW reporter. She questions why rather than just taking a photo someone didn't stop the person from dropping his or her pants. She also questions the lack of date and time stamp and source of the photo.
Valkyrie agrees with Brugh that the rump in the photo is not a bottom belonging to a SLEEPS protester. Moreover she says, on the night before the city found feces in the Park Blocks that led to the grassy areas being fenced off, she went and talked to the people sleeping there. Those campers were not affiliated with SLEEPS or even local she says. They told Valkyrie that they were in town for the Kaleidoscope Music Festival. "That's who pooped in your park," she says. . Photos have been circulating from the county that allegedly show human feces and a person pooping. You can see them here.
Valkyrie also points out that driving homeless campers out of the West Eugene Wetlands on the edge of town has driven more homeless to the city center.
She was taken aback over recent statements on Facebook by Commissioner Jay Bozievich that not only accused Valkyrie of being "liar" but also accused her of saying SLEEPS was purposely pooping in planters. Bozievich has recently increased his posts and visibility on his "West Eugene Commissioner Jay Bozievich" Facebook page. A recent survey by Lindholm Company says "Commissioner Bozievich, based on these data, is in the weakest shape of the three county commissioners up for re-election next year. He has a three-to-one favorability ratio which is good, but he has less than 30 percent favorables. This analysis implies that people who know about Commissioner Bozievich like him, but not enough know who he is."
Bozievich writes on his page that previously was used during his election: " Alley, If you are not lying then Jon Ruis and Eugene staff lied to us in a meeting last Friday when they told us you admitted to them in a meeting that SLEEPS was using landscape areas as bathrooms in an attempt to have the City pressure the County to open the Public Service Building bathrooms 24-7 and then you went on TV and denied SLEEPS participants were involved and that it was all probably from dogs."
Valkyrie says she did not attend any such meeting, and that the city staff "would not say that something came from my mouth when it did not." Nor did she speak to the media about dog poop. Valkyrie provided EW an email statement from city attorney Glen Klein that says: "Jon was not at the meeting last Friday. Captain Durr, Kathryn Brotherton and I met with Alicia, the county's lawyer and staff. Jay was not at the meeting either. During the meeting, the issue of feces in the Park Blocks and surrounding area came up. Captain Durr mentioned that he had had a conversation with Alley. Alley said that as far as she knew, no SLEEPS folks were using the park blocks as a restroom. She did add that if the City added public restrooms, then maybe no one would use the park blocks as a restroom. This was all that was said during the meeting on the topic. "
Valkyrie is contemplating a legal recourse on Bozievich's allegations.
Update: The thread in question has been removed from Bozievich's Facebook page. More of the conversation is below.
Update 2: EW asked Lane County's public information office for a response from Commissioner Bozievich on Friday afternoon before the holiday weekend. Bozievich responded on Sunday:
I recently posted some information in a comment on my Facebook page about Alley Valkyrie and S.L.E.E.P.S. I have since discovered the information was incorrect. I have contacted Ms. Valkyrie and personally apologized. I would like to extend that apology to the S.L.E.E.P.S. organization. I am sincerely sorry for placing inaccurate information about both parties on my page.