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Protesters Leave Free Speech Plaza

EUGENE, Ore. — The Lane County Board of Commissioners voted to close Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza Wednesday, effective immediately.

This comes after protesters with the group SLEEPS set up tents at the plaza to protest the lack of housing for the homeless.

The protesters moved out after the Board’s meeting.

Health concerns were among the biggest issues for the Board. The closure enables crews to clean up the area. But protesters say they’ve cleaned up their act.

“What I’ve invited people to do is come see,” says demonstrator Angie Bartow. “Even to the county commissioners, I would ask that they would come in and see what’s going on, not just kind of take everyone else’s word for it.”

Lane County’s public health officer did tour the site recently and declared it a public health risk. Police reports also reveal that the area has recently seen a 20-percent increase in serious crime, including drug overdoses and sex abuse.

The last time the county cleared out the plaza was when it was sued and the judge ultimately ruled in favor of the protesters. That’s why, this time around, the county is making sure that this is a public process. Commissioners say they’ll also look at updating the county code with details on how the Free Speech Plaza can be used. The Board will take up the issue at another meeting in a couple of weeks.

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  1. James Scorzelli says:

    Glad its a Free Speech area again and not a closed off living space for misguided individuals looking for homeless resources. Shelter care, Eugene Mission, Womenspace are just a few I can think of off hand that should be utilized first before camping out in a county courthouse.

    1. Kay says:

      All those places are full. All of them. I love how people spout off without checking the facts first.

  2. Michael Adams says:

    Have you actually lived in the Eugene Mission? I have, and I know others who have as well. Every time someone I know goes there, they come out sick within just a couple of days. And I know that there is some stuff not being done right out there at the Eugene Mission because a county health official turned around and told me he is out there “quite a bit.” In regards to Shelter care, Eugene Mission IS the Shelter Care in Eugene. I cannot comment as to womenspace although I hear they are quite helpful according to some of my female friends.
    Honestly, it is a free speech area and it has been ruled that sleeping, tents, and protests are forms of free speech. So your comment “Glad its a Free Speech area again and not a closed off living space for misguided individuals looking for homeless resources,” is misguided. We have made it clear time and time again, that we would move and make room for any protestors that wanted to join us on site for different causes and even help them with their protest. We have invited the general public to come down to speak with us to better understand and get to know us. We have extended open invitations to anyone willing to listen, to show that we are not thinking of just ourselves, but others as well. We have had an increase of people stopping by to ask questions and sat there for sometimes near an hour talking about the plight of the homeless, not being able to sleep, and brainstorming possible actions we may not have thought of yet.
    We invite you to come to our new location and talk with us more. Anyone. Everyone. If you got a question, come ask it, no matter if it is just one question or one hundred. We welcome anybody seeking answers.

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