EUGENE, Ore. — Four occupations, hundreds of protests and one year later, Occupy Eugene is still present in this community, just differently than before.
Occupy Eugene is still alive, but it isn’t what it used to be. What many local residents saw as an expensive eyesore, and what occupiers felt was a slightly unfocused but powerful group.
Occupiers say they’ve lessened in number but evolved into a more centered and effective organization working to better their community as a whole.
It started with a march.
“I got the sense that we didn’t know what we were doing, but we were angry and we were going to have a march,” said Occupy Eugene spokesperson Plaedo.
Plaedo remembers that same day exactly one year ago when Occupy Eugene set up its first camp at the Eugene Park Blocks. They were armed with tents and signs, broadcasting their message against the banks and the infamous one-percent.
They stayed not just in one place. The group migrated its message three times in a month, occupying Alton Baker Park, the University of Oregon, and finally settled at Washington-Jefferson Park, thanks to special consideration from city council who voted to temporary lift a no-camping ordinance.
Unfortunately for occupiers, things changed. In December, Eugene police met with the council about the increasing crime at the camp, even an alleged deadly assault, which eventually pushed city leaders to shut the occupation down.
“I ask council to end the camping ban waiver immediately and to direct the city manager to begin the process of closing the Occupy Eugene camp,” said Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, at a meeting.
“When we lost our camp, we kind of had an identity crisis for a while and a lot of people faded away, and that was a tough transitional point, but we were able to overcome that and we were able to reinvent ourselves, and we keep reinventing ourselves,” Plaedo said.
Plaedo says the evolution of Occupy Eugene has been for the better. They have less members, but more passionate ones. They’ve broadened their focus, past banks and into the whole community, and they feel they’re helping.
“As long as there’s way too much corruption, as long as the one percent is sucking resources out of our communities, we’re going to be out here. As long as there’s unjust laws on a local level, we’re going to be out here. We’re going to be here serving the people in our community,” Plaedo said.
Plaedo hopes Lane County can see Occupy Eugene as a resource and a group looking to serve its community for many anniversaries to come. He said Occupy Eugene’s future looks a lot like it did now with community service projects and protests fighting for the rights of the 99 percent.