Mayor calls for 'unified, peaceful closure' of Occupy Eugene camp

Mayor calls for 'unified, peaceful closure' of Occupy Eugene camp
Occupy Eugene camp

EUGENE, Ore. - Violence that put a man in the hospital with life-threatening injuries after a fight at the Occupy Eugene camp prompted the mayor to call a special meeting of the City Council and call on the community for the "unified, peaceful closure of the camp."

"This has caused me in seeing the wisdom in moving sooner than originally decided," Mayor Kitty Piercy said at the outset of the special meeting Tuesday at noon.

The Council voted 5-2 to direct the City Manager to dismantle the camp and restore the site "as soon as practicable."

"It didn't go in the direction we had hoped it would go," Councilor Andrea Ortiz said of the city's efforts to accomodate Occupy Eugene.

To help mitigate the impact, City Manager Jon Ruiz said city staff prepared an ordinance to allow tent camping at churches that allows people who are homeless to camp in cars at approved locations.

Police Chief Pete Kerns went over a number of violent incidents his officers have responded to in recent weeks, including a man hospitalized after being attacked by a man with an ax.

The most recent incident Monday night involved a fight that put a man in the hospital with injuries that may threaten his life, Kerns said.

"I would defend anyone's right to protest any time, any where," Councilor Mike Clark said. "I don't believe camping is necessary to do it."

Councilor George Brown indicated the violence had "crossed a threshold."

"I just see this as following our original plan, which I think was very sound," he said. "We just have to speed it up."

Councilor Pat Farr said the City should have dealt with this situation earlier. He called the camp's appeal to a troublemaking element "predictable."

"As far as when this should be shut down, immediate is not soon enough for me," George Poling said. He voiced confidence in the police chief's plan to close the camp.

Not all of the Councilors were eager to close the camp.

"I would never have voted to establish a homeless camp, but it happened," Councilor Taylor said.

She questioned the chief of police on where the people in the camp came from and where they would go after the camp closes.

She asked why police couldn't just ask people who commit crimes in the camp to move.

"If these same people were down by the river or down by the bus station and something happened, you would respond to that?" Taylor said.