A recent comment made by Eugene City Councilor Emily Semple has a newly formed homeless rights watchdog organization demanding her resignation.
Eugene/Springfield Alliance of Camping Homeless (EACH) is founded by Eric Jackson and Robert Patterson, and the group says it plans to file a Hate/Bias Incident Report with the Eugene City Manager’s Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement Friday, Sept. 27.
EACH’s call for resignation stems from a Sept. 17 Human Rights Commission meeting during which Semple talked about Jackson’s protest camp, which is currently located at 11th Avenue and Lawrence Street. Semple said the campsite is becoming a new face of homelessness for the community, and it’s not protesting but resorting to terrorism.
Jackson’s protest camp is making nonprofits, merchants and passersby angry, she said.
Semple issued an apology during the Sept. 23 City Council Meeting about the comment, saying that if she had pre-written her thoughts, she would’ve used a different word.
In a letter addressed to Mayor Lucy Vinis, Patterson demands that she ask for Semple’s resignation. Patterson says Semple’s “hate speech has no place in public policy.” Patterson adds that Semple’s comments issued “an unwarranted and hateful attack against a man working to empower Eugene’s homeless.”
EACH announced its call for Semple’s resignation in the same day the group announced its formation. Patterson is a homeless advocate and is a 2020 candidate for Eugene mayor. Jackson has been a leading homelessness activist in Eugene, which began in 2018 when he was managing Camp 99, a community of 125 campers.
Below is the group’s full letter to Vinis.
I am writing to you to urge your action regarding Eugene Ward 1 City Councillor Emily Semple’s comments to Eugene’s Human Rights Commission on September 17, 2019. As you may know, Councillor Semple spoke at length at the meeting about Mr Eric Jackson, his ongoing protest against the criminalization of homelessness, and those taking part in and peripheral to his protest, In doing so, Councillor Semple launched an unwarranted and hateful attack against a man working to empower Eugene’s homeless and uplift the entire community. Her hate speech is not in keeping with the values of our city and that she would give such remarks at the meeting of an office committed to the “the implementation of universal human rights values and principles” underscores her disconnection from our community.
Prejudice against the homeless is a nationwide threat to the safety of some of the most marginalized persons in America. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the National Coalition for the Homeless documented 1,769 acts of violence against homeless people from 1999 to 2007. Of those attacks, 476 homeless people died. Three states – Florida, Maine, and Alaska – have added the homeless to groups receiving protected class status.
Semple’s anti-homeless hate speech has no place in public policy. It undermines the hard work of local service agencies, it emboldens anti-poverty bigots, and it puts thousands of homeless lives at risk – not only in Eugene, but also on Portland’s 82nd Avenue, along Clackamas County’s Springwater Corridor Trail, and in the scattered remains of the Wallace Marine Park camp in Salem. With scant justification, she has used her considerable power and influence to target Eugene’s most vulnerable. She has broken faith. She must go.
I am asking you to do the right thing by Eugene’s homeless and demand Councillor Semple’s immediate resignation.
Co-Director, Eugene/Springfield Alliance of Camping Homeless