EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – A push back on Friday against the city of Eugene's “Downtown Public Safety Zone,” as Eugene City Council considers its future and a possible extension soon.
At least 50 people packed Kesey Square at the corner of Broadway and Willamette St. on Friday, February 17th, 2012, protesting the Safety Zone. Several groups helped put the protest together, including members of Occupy Eugene, CALC and the ACLU.
The groups are hoping to convince Eugene City Council to overturn the Safety Zone, which keeps people accused or convicted of certain crimes from entering parts of downtown Eugene.
The zone is bordered by 7th Avenue on the north, 11th Avenue to the south, Lincoln and Lawrence Streets to the west, and Pearl Street to the east.
Eugene City Council will discuss an extension to the zone with Eugene Police at a work session on Tuesday, February 21st, 2012.
Right now, Eugene Police is asking for a two year extension to the zone, which first took effect in August 2008. Right now, the zone is set to expire in April 2012.
Eugene Police says the zone is a way of mitigating problems with people accused of commiting crime and returning to the streets and downtown due to the lack of jail space in the Lane County Jail.
Meanwhile, Occupy Eugene and other groups say the zone is discriminatory and would like to see the zone come to an end.
Michael Todd is one local resident who has faced exclusion twice for charges including littering, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and other charges. Both times, Todd's exclusion orders were dropped by city prosecutors.
Todd says the zone gives the city the right to pick who hangs out downtown. Had Todd been excluded, without variance requests, Todd would have been excluded from the Dining Room for meals. It would have also kept him from 24 hour restrooms.
“I mean it would have caused me great despair,” says Todd.
“In any society, it's respect, respect, respect, but yet, they don't see it,” says Todd.
Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon, David Fidanque says that the ACLU would like to see the exclusions end. He says that the data to show whether the zone has actually helped is vauge. Fidanque also says that the data could have been impacted by an increased presence of police officers in downtown.
“There's no way to know really whether the exclusion zone has worked or hasn't, what we do know is that officers have had unbridled discretion about who gets excluded and who doesn't,” says Fidanque.
If the zone is extended, the ACLU says it wants to see EPD come up with a system to track who got excluded and why.
Eugene City Council is expected to take action on the future of the “Public Safety Zone” at a City Council meeting on February 27th, 2012.