Stop The Sweeps Makes a Splash at World Athletics Championships

It’s no secret that the City of Eugene has a long-standing relationship with media attention. The more airtime, the better. And with the arrival of the World Athletics Championships hosted at the University of Oregon’s newly rebuilt Hayward Field, a great deal of emphasis was placed on making the city camera ready. 

As part of the effort to provide comfortable accommodations and ambience to welcome so many national and international tourists, the state portioned off some of the $40 million dollars invested in these preparations to remove any visible trace of the houseless population from view. 

Entire houseless camps were cleared and hundreds of Eugene residents were displaced throughout the city.

In response to the devastating impact these decisions have had on our city, members of the organization Stop The Sweeps-Eugene came to the John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes on the corner of Franklin Blvd. and Agate St., to stand in protest against the city’s misuse of public funds for a photo opportunity. 

Around 3 p.m., on July 19, STSE set up a table and chairs and offered passersby pamphlets and fact sheets on the state of the city’s housing crisis. While some visitors were polite, a few even taking the papers offered to them, the majority of people walking by either outright refused the information, or began to go around the group altogether. 

A person in a black bathing suit, blue denim shorts, and big sunglasses hands a pamphlet to what appears to be a university employee wearing a light green shirt, black pants, and holding a yellow and white checked bag. Behind them are trees providing a little shade from the hot day, and brick university buildings beyond that.
Jessie with Stop the Sweeps passes an informational pamphlet to a passerby and explains the group’s mission. The group’s goal for this protest was to call attention to Eugene’s treatment of the homeless in the shadow of their big global event, though many passing tourists chose to ignore the activists. [Robert Scherle // Double Sided Media]
A person in a dress and sandals sits in a folding chair next to a table with informational pamphlets and some signs leaned against it. One sign reads “There is a housing crisis here.” The other sign reads: “World Athletic Events are meant to show people the pinnacle of human ability. It’s too bad it’s always running and never kindness.”
Marm with Stop the Sweeps sits in the shade by the group’s table, where they passed out information about Eugene’s treatment of the homeless. [Robert Scherle // Double Sided Media]

As the various groups of tourists came and went, coming from shuttles and the Lane Transit District’s EMX bus at the Agate St. stop, decisions were made to shift from outright discussion on the housing crisis to more friendly offerings of “Would you like to know more about our city?” and “Hi, Tracktown USA Factsheet?”

  • SLEEP IS A HUMAN RIGHT STOP THE SWEEPS We are an anti-capitalist political project rooted in abolition and solidarity with the working class, specifically people who are living on the street. We seek to understand the needs, desires, and struggles of our unhoused neighbors and work with them to get their needs met Stop the Sweeps offers support to those who want to refuse and who are interested in fighting EPD and the city of Eugene against park bans and camp evictions (so-called sweeps) We want bto work with you and get to know you; please reach out to share your stories, experiences, and demands or to request support in resisting a sweep. EMAIL: hello@stopthesweepseugene.org IG: @stopthesweeps.eugene
  • STOP THE WEEPS, EUGENE We are a political project rooted in solidarity with unhoused people and the working class We seek to grow and build power Our work is rooted in solidarily, not charity Our work is rooted in intersectionality Our work is rooted in harm reduction and non-judgment We seek to understand the needs, desires, and struggles of unhoused people, and we build our strategy off of this understanding We oppose policing of all kinds We oppose abuse and trafficking We are constantly growing in this work and welcome feedback

However, even when the tone changed to a more obviously positive one, the continued majority of those walking by outright refused to even consider what their impact had on our community.

After almost an hour, having given out as many of the pamphlets and fact sheets as they had brought, the members of Stop The Sweeps, in their bathing suits, took their signs directly into the John E. Jaqua Center’s fountain to make a more splashy statement. They stepped into the water around 3:40 p.m., each taking bets on how long they’d be able to sustain this aspect of their protest before law enforcement appeared. 

  • Activists in bathing suits jump into the reflecting pool outside the John E. Jacqua Center, holding signs and folding chairs as onlookers pass on the sidewalk. The background of the photo is a lush green hedge, with Franklin Boulevard just beyond, packed with traffic.
  • A person with red hair and big sunglasses walks through the reflecting pool, their torso covered by a cardboard sign that reads “The $40 million spent on your party could have housed 400 local homeless neighbors.”
  • A person with red hair and big sunglasses walks through the reflecting pool, their torso covered by a cardboard sign that reads “The $40 million spent on your party could have housed 400 local homeless neighbors.”
  • In the background, two protesters holding signs stand in the Jacqua Center reflecting pool while in the foreground, a group of tourists walks past. Only one of the passing tourists is looking at the protesters, while the others look straight ahead down the street.
  • Three activists are in the fountain in front of the Jacqua Center. Two are holding signs. One says "The $40 million spent on your part could have houses 400 local homeless neighbors. Another sign reads "there is a housing crisis here."
  • Two activists are in the fountain in front of the Jacqua Center and are holding signs. One says "The $40 million spent on your part could have houses 400 local homeless neighbors. Another sign reads "there is a housing crisis here." In the forground, four people walk by the crowd. One man, shirtless, is looking towards the signs as he jogs by.
  • A person with purple and blue hair, wearing a red and white polka dot bikini, stands in the shallow water surrounding a modern, glass building. The person is holding a sign that reads: “City of Eugene: Loves Athletics, Hates: Poor People. Two other activists stand in the water nearby, but the words on their signs are illegible.
  • Five activists in bathing suits straddle the edge of the reflecting pool while holding their handmade signs. The first one, from the left, reads “There is a housing crisis here.” The next one is partially obscured, but appears to read “City of Eugene plus UO hate the poor.” The next one reads “Shame on the City of Eugene: Loves Athletics, Hates Poor People.” The final sign reads “The $40 million spent on your party could have housed 400 local homeless neighbors.”
  • A person in a blue v-neck shirt, blue hat, and black shorts stands in the pool surrounding the John E. Jacqua center holding a cardboard sign that reads “There is a housing crisis here.” Four other activists stand in the pool nearby, but their signs cannot be read in this photo.

At 3:53 p.m.—about twice as long as anyone had bet—two UOPD officers came up to the group and simply asked them to get out of the water. The exchange was short and polite and the officers said they understood the impact of the heat and the reasons behind the protest but insisted the group could not be in the fountain. 

  • Two police officers, in full uniform and body armor, confront the bathing suit-clad activists standing in the pool in front of the Jacqua Center. One officer is speaking with an activist, while the other scans over the crowd with a raised eyebrow.
  • A group of activists wearing bathing suits stand a few feet away from UOPD officers, holding their cardboard signs as the police ask them to exit the pool. In the foreground, out of focus, a person in a purple top looks at the scene.
  • On the right, a police officer with his hands in his pockets listens as activists in bathing suits explain their actions. The activist speaking directly to the officer is holding a cardboard sign that reads “The $40 million spent on your party could have housed 400 local homeless neighbors.” Behind them are four other protesters, drying off after leaving the pool.

A walk down Agate St. to ask some of the many visitors waiting in line to get into Hayward Field if they’d like to discuss the impact of the World Athletic Championships on the city they are visiting yielded a continued dismissive response, as no one wanted to know anything about this town or its residents.

Mia Storm

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1 Response

  1. Abby Gershenzon says:

    Excellent coverage and photos! Was remembering how we all thought China was such a police state to try to hide their impoverished neighborhoods in Beijing before the Olympics there. How is this any different?

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