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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.