EUGENE, Ore. – Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner told reporters Saturday no arrests were made during a protest in Eugene that left businesses throughout downtown vandalized and caused multiple reports of injuries.
“We didn’t want anybody hurt, and we knew if we made an arrest it could possibly turn into a multiple use of force situation which has a tendency to feed a crowd like that. So, we didn’t make any arrests,” Skinner said.
Several hundred people gathered near Washington Street and Seventh Avenue around 10 p.m. By 1 a.m., Starbucks, Jimmy Johns, Five Guys, and T-Mobile were all destroyed. A fire briefly broke out inside the Starbucks but was put out by other protesters.
Skinner said police have “good video” of the protests and will launch an investigation to prosecute those who committed crimes.
“Last night I think was a combination of a lot of anger. What started out as a free speech movement that had a really good message to it, turned very violent and became a criminal movement,” Skinner said.
Skinner said the tone of the protest changed when some in the protest began attacking businesses and burning public and private property in the street.
“We took a really light touch to this, knowing that our presence would just aggravate matters worse,” Skinner said.
Skinner said the protest took police by surprise, as an organized protest had been scheduled for Sunday. Skinner said police will be prepared if protesters take to the streets again.
“We don’t want to be heavy handed. We want to make sure that we keep enough space for people to be heard when they’re doing it peacefully and thoughtfully,” Skinner said.