EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Occupy Eugene is speaking out about the progress it says its made in the community, as it hopes to get an extension to the no camping exemption in Washington Jefferson Park.
Occupy Eugene has until December 15th, 2011 at the camp under current city code. It is asking city council for an extension. The issue goes before council Monday night, December 12th, 2011, at 7:30 p.m.
Monday morning, protestors gathered at Eugene City Hall to speak out for the movement.
“This collaboration between Occupy Eugene and the un-housed but also the city, the social agencies in this town has been amazing, such a positive thing and we want it to continue,” says Michael Carrigan of the Community Alliance of Lane County organization, which supports Occupy Eugene.Protestors and volunteers say Occupy Eugene has the support of about 1,700 different people through a petition process.
Today, about 600 people call the camp home at Washington-Jefferson Park by Occupy volunteer estimates. The camp is handing out around 800 meals a day as well.
“We get about 600 to 800 pounds of food a day,” said Jon McCahill, an Occupy volunteer in the kitchen area of the camp.
While many people have called the camp a homeless camp, Occupy Eugene says that its work with the homeless go hand in hand with the social movement. The group says that the work with the homeless is along the lines of the original goal of the protest being about social and economic justice.
“If we can help the homeless in this community, an issue that has been on the table for over 10 years or more, we are doing something to help economic justice around the country,” said Lauren Reagan, a volunteer working with the Occupy Eugene movement.
Occupiers are asking for an extension in the park until a better location can be found.
“If you were to shut down OE, Occupy Eugene, it'd be like shutting down the Dining Room, St. Vinnie's and the Egan Warming Center all in one day. And if they shut us down, those services will be inundated with more people than they can handle,” said McCahill.
“EPD and the city, if they choose to shut us down, it will be tragic,” said McCahill.
If Occupy Eugene doesn’t get an extension, representatives working with the group say some will likely stay and be arrested in non-violent protest. So far, there are no plans for another site.
“It's not going to be quick, it's not going to be easy, but we're changing lives,’ said Jean Stacey, an Occupy Eugene protestor.
Meanwhile, Eugene Police has expressed concern about the health and safety of people inside of the camp and the safety of officers responding to issues in the camp.
Occupy Eugene members say they’re working on confronting the issues and challenges in the camp.
“We deal with them in a peaceful fashion, in a mediation fashion, we don't chase them away, we embrace them,” said McCahill.
“Nothing makes a community more secure than community building and bonding within itself,” said Jennifer Frenzer Knowlton, an Occupy Eugene peacekeeping volunteer.
The Eugene City Manager’s office has also expressed concern about the impact of the camp on the city’s slim budget. City Manager Jon Ruiz put out a recommendation on Monday afternoon to not extend the group’s stay at Washington Jefferson Park.
Ruiz recommends the creation of a special task force made up of “council members, OE representatives, non-profit agencies and perhaps other community members,” to work “over the next 60 to 90 days to identify strategies for Council consideration,” regarding “social innovations and interesting possibilities for how we address homelessness in Eugene,” and “engage with both OE and the broader community to leverage the lessons and innovations of Occupy Eugene.”
Protestors are hoping for more help.
“They need to come to the table and look towards those future long term solutions and actually put their money where their mouth is,” said Reagan.