EUGENE, Ore.-- A peaceful protest outside of the Lane County Jail turned chaotic Wednesday night.
Around 200 protesters originally gathered for a peaceful demonstration to stand in solidarity with an inmate on a hunger strike. But later in the evening, protesters began tearing down a fence behind the jail that triggered a police response. Then around 11 p.m., protesters got ahold of the flag outside of the jail and set it on fire.
Police responded again in riot gear clearing the protesters and creating a secure perimeter around the entrance.
Protesters were there claiming the jail has not done enough to protect inmates from COVID-19. Capt. Clint Riley said the opposite. He said the jail has taken tremendous steps to ensure the inmates' safety.
"We've tried to do the best we can to maintain all the basic human rights and needs for the folks in our facility throughout the pandemic without losing anything," Riley said. "We've changed the manner in which we deliver our services but we are still delivering the services to the folks still in our custody."
Riley said the jail has created spaces where inmates can socially distance as well as test everyone being booked for the coronavirus. The jail has canceled outside visitation but in its place, inmates can have virtual meetings and the jail has stopped charging inmates for phone calls.
Riley also said they have released several inmates, based on the court's recommendation to lower the population. He said without these measures more inmates would have the virus.
Riley said an inmate who transferred to the jail from the state prison in Salem tested positive for COVID-19. "If it wasn't for the testing process we put in place, that person would have come in our jail and left and we would have never known that person had a positive COVID test," Riley said.
That inmate was only in the jail for 24-hours for a court hearing and was then taken back to the Oregon State Penitentiary.