One would think that the last place free speech would be squashed would be at our own Eugene Library.
However, last Night SLEEPS Activists had to run to get an EPD officer to stop the library staff from destroying the images being chalked on the sidewalk as an informal part of the First Friday Art Walk.
“We need protection, come protect our First Amendment Rights!”, cried the activists to the officer.
To dramatize that our anti-sleeping laws kill, at the First Friday Art Walk SLEEPS protestors were chalking on the sidewalks the outlines of those unhoused who have died in Eugene. As art goers approached activists would sink and rise from the images.
When security guards at the Eugene Public Library went out and started washing the art away protestors explained that artistic expression is protected by free speech but the library personnel were having none of it.
The EPD Officer went over and advised the library folks that indeed, people in Eugene are still entitled to Free Speech (sometimes) and that the protestors were participating informally in First Friday Art Walk and were well within their rights.
Library staff graciously apologized for their misunderstanding and the sidewalk was rechalked.
Eugene Municipal code 4.815 forbids the use of blankets, sleeping bags, tents, cook stoves on any city owned property. This means that those who are unhoused have absolutely no legal place to sleep. They have no way to protect themselves from the freezing rain. Police and park officials are compelled to wake them up and tell them to move on, even tho there is nowhere they can legally move “to”. If they don’t move, there is a $200 fine the first time, $500 the second. Sleeping in your own car which is legally parked on city streets or parking lots can result in the same fines. SLEEPS is seeking to modify 4.815.