EUGENE, Ore. -- After a series of protests over the weekend turned into destructive riots, a press conference was held Monday morning with Mayor Lucy Vinis and Police Chief Chris Skinner.
“We spent all weekend trying to create space for people to be heard, for voices to be heard and for important issues to be raised around how we manage racial inequality and police reform,” Skinner said. “For the most part people did a really good job of coming out and making their voices heard. It's unfortunate that yet again we are having a conversation about a small group of individuals that after three-plus hours of being heard felt like what being heard meant to them was to damage local businesses and public property and to throw rocks at police officers.”
Skinner said that it is important to recognize that there are two groups that have formed since the first night of riotous behavior at 7th Avenue and Washington Street in late May.
“The Eugene Police Department is at a place right now where we continue to manage these the very best we can,” Skinner said. “But maybe more importantly, the Eugene Police Department is in a place where we’re ready to be at the table and have productive conversations and talks about outcomes about what policing looks like in Eugene, about what community safety looks like in Eugene.”
Skinner said that maintaining the safety of his team was a focus after things escalated to rocks being thrown at officers' cars. They have implemented various new strategies such as knowing the most appropriate time to use teargas and choosing not to enforce a curfew on Saturday night.
"There wasn't a better day for us when we were able to take the boards and the fencing down at EPD," Skinner said. "That was a milestone event for us. More than anything, it was a statement to this community about our trust in the protesters with respect to them being able to continue being heard without engaging in violence especially at the PD. I don't have any plans on putting boards back up or fences back up."
Mayor Vinis said the violent actions are derailing constructive progress.
“The anger is real,” Vinis said. “The need for reform and action is real. We must keep this work front and center.”
Vinis said that new leadership has emerged to provide for a safe and welcoming space for everyone.
“These violent actions are unacceptable and unworthy,” Vinis said. “The antagonizing presence of heavily armed counter-protesters, including one who shot his gun in the middle of the event on Saturday, have only added unnecessary fuel to create a more volatile situation. There actions are not welcome here.”
Eugene City Councilor Greg Evans weighed in.
“There are a few bad actors out there that have attempted to take this movement over in Eugene and some other places for their own purposes," Evans said. "They're going to do what they're going to do. However, if they are going to engage in violence, vandalism and property destruction -- we are not putting up with that."
Eugene Police is still investigating the criminal activity that took place.