The Community Gardens were meant to help federal prisioners re-enter society and be productive and to grow food for those in poverty. Instead the city, carefully guarding news of the sale it until it was almost over, sold it to a bank.
Today the unhoused protestors are “taking back the land”. This is now both a protest site, protected under our First Amendment rights to free speech and a place for the unhoused to sleep, protected under the 4th and 8th Amendments.
On Wednesday, December 26 at 2:30 PMSLEEPS moved tents from its old federal building Federal Plaza site to the Community Gardens several blocks away. A portion of the unhoused protestors remained at the Federal Plaza site despite failing to receive a temporary injunction to continue challenging what it considers the GSA’s unconstitutional permitting process and curfews, while others moved to the Community Gardens.
The 2 acre Gardens, located next to the new Federal Building were recently sold by the City of Eugene to Northwest Community Credit Union.
The sale of the site was hidden from the public until it was almost over as a means of preventing public outcry. According to EW, “…. the Courthouse Garden, which this sale will destroy, was one of the most inclusive and collaborative projects, across economic, social, political lines, in recent Eugene history.”
Envisioned by Judge Ann Aiken as a place for reentering federal prisoners to work to grow organic food for the poor, the Garden joined those prisoners, parole officers, U of O students and at risk youth in a cross-cultural program that produced over 6,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables each year for those in need, a significant portion for those who are unhoused. Beneficiaries included the Mission, Relief Nursery, New Roads among other.
Since we can no longer have food from here, at least we can use it as a safe and legal place to sleep. Eugene is unable to provide shelter to 1500 of its 2400 unhoused citizens. The 9th Circuit Court, under Jones vs. LA, ordered LA to allow those who are unhoused to sleep from 9PM to 6AM on public land. This land is in the 9th Circuit Court and is underused City land during this season, under contract to the U of O which belongs to the state and is also public land. We have the constitutional right to be on public land both to protest and to sleep until the City provides satisfactory alternative locations for shelter.
NOTE: SLEEPS was trespasssed (given orders to leave or be cited/arrrested) by EPD at 5:30PM on the direct order of Eugene City Manager Jon Ruiz. This is the second time the City Manager has directly ordered the shutdown of a Free Speech Protest by SLEEPS on city owned or managed land. The first shutdown was at City Hall on December 12th at 10:30 PM. In both instances, protestors left peacefully. The primary purpose of each attempt was to expose the unconstitutional acts of the City on 1st, 4th and 8th Amendment issues and bring the discussion into the realm of the courts.