EUGENE, Ore. - The mayor's call for a 'unified, peaceful closure' of the Occupy Eugene camp met with some harsh words - and calm, peaceful actions.
A social media message from the Occupiers called for "calm and peaceful energy" as they pack up from Washington-Jefferson Park.
"We need people to help move important belongings and equipment that we do not want confiscated, we need people who are willing to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience, we need people to livestream, and most crucial of all we need people who are good at MAINTAINING A CALM AND PEACEFUL ENERGY no matter how this plays out. Thank you all!"
On the streets, people packed up and moved out of the camp - and into the night. Organizers of the camp said the move puts 150 homeless people out on the streets from a place many came to call home.
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The protest camp included not only people who are homeless but also people who took part in the camp's activities but lived elsehwere.
The group's general assembly called the Council's vote "a clear betrayal."
The City of Eugene issued a press release just before 5 p.m. titled, "City Council Directs City Manager to Begin Peaceful Closure of Occupy Eugene Camp."
The earlier press release from Occupiers: "Occupy Eugene Responds to Eviction by City Council."
Occupy Eugene is saddened by the City Council’s decision to evict protestors from Washington-Jefferson Park only 5 days before Christmas. The emergency meeting and decision to evict represents a clear betrayal of the collaborative relationship established between OE and the City.
This decision will serve as further motivation to protesters here in Eugene and around the country to continue to struggle against unjust laws and regulations that propagate social and economic injustice.
Occupy Eugene is grateful that some attempt was made to accommodate the immediate need for a safe place for homeless folks currently living at Washington Jefferson park by expanding car camping. However, this limited action will have little long-term impact on the problem of homelessness in Eugene and does nothing to replace the ability of the community to come together to solve its own problems.
Over the course of the occupation in Washington Jefferson Park, the citizens of Eugene, homeless and not, have created a community to address immediate problems and root causes of homelessness.
For the first time many of Eugene’s homeless population have had a consistent, safe place to sleep, three meals a day, medical care, job skills training, and a community to engage with based around mutual respect and equality. We invite the City of Eugene to take up a similar strategy in their attempts to address homelessness.
As was reiterated in the City Council meeting by Mayor Kitty Piercy, we hope that the eviction will happen peacefully without any force or violence. The official Occupy Eugene response to the eviction by the City of Eugene will be nonviolent.
The Occupation will continue with or without camp.
This press release has been approved by the general assembly of Occupy Eugene.
The Eugene City Council today voted to revoke the exemption for overnight camping it had extended on December 14 and to direct the City Manager to end the encampment of Occupy Eugene and ensure the restoration of the space in Washington-Jefferson Park as soon as practicable.
Police will work with people at the camp to facilitate an orderly and peaceful closure of the camp as soon as possible.
"The City's response throughout OE has been measured and reasonable, and adaptable as the conditions have evolved on the site. Despite our recently increased efforts to address safety concerns, the incidents from last night tragically confirm the dangers of the site. Based on the Council's decision today, we will continue to reach out to OE representatives and non-profit service providers to close the camp and restore the site with thought and compassion, mindful of the need to immediately restore health and safety. I believe that this is an opportunity for the City and OE to come together in the shared best interests of the community to transition quickly and purposefully. Rather than divide the community, this is an opportunity to share compassion by supporting and continuing to support the efforts of St. Vincent de Paul, Egan Warming Center, Shelter Care, Looking Glass, Whitebird, Eugene Mission and others in their immediate and long-term response to the OE campers and the un-housed in our community," said City Manager Jon Ruiz.
"Police Chief Pete Kerns has demonstrated exceptional leadership in navigating a complex and challenging situation, and I commend his officers for their continued professionalism, caring and courage," Ruiz added.
In addition the City Council temporarily amended the City's car camping ordinance to allow use of a tent in already-designated car camping spaces.
There is currently a City ordinance that allows for overnight sleeping in a vehicle, camper or trailer in certain designated off-street locations. The amendment allows for overnight sleeping in a tent where it already would be allowed in a vehicle.
The City's car camping program currently includes 8 sites for families, serving a total of 25 people, and 22 sites for single people, serving a total of 36 people. Some of the sites for singles allow for more than one vehicle.
The car camping program is managed by St. Vincent De Paul, and City and St. Vincent staff are seeking to add more authorized camping locations.