Local Organizations Protest the World Athletics Championships On Its Penultimate Day
On July 23, Eugene Housing and Neighborhood Defense, the Eugene Revolutionary Study Group, the Revolutionary Women’s Committee, and Stop The Sweeps-Eugene held a protest to “denounce the non-consensual use of our city for colossal sporting events” on the second-to-last day of the World Athletics Championships being held at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.
A flier for the protest, titled “A Rally in Opposition to the World Athletics Championships,” said for those to “come stand with fellow working class people in opposition to the capitalists who exploit our labor, raise our rents, sweep the homeless, and police the poor.” These “colossal sporting events” aren’t new to Eugene and, as a result, this was not their first time protesting an international sporting event at UO — in 2021, the organization protested the Olympic Trials which were also held at Hayward Field.
Around 5 p.m., activists with Eugene HAND and frustrated members of the community gathered at Campbell Park’s parking lot. During the initial gathering, several fliers and pamphlets were given to people.
Beginning the rally, a few speeches were given at the park.
The first speaker said that the WAC has affected the city by forcing it to throw all of its time, money, and resources into the event and not into the betterment of its own community.
“The town of Eugene has spent so much time and money and resources putting into the planning of this event all those resources that are supposed to be going to improving the lives of the working class of this city,” the speaker said. “They justify using those resources to put on an event like this because it’s supposed to upgrade the city and the people living and working within it but that is a lie” and “only bring exploitation on the working class and put money in the pockets of people like phil knight and our city councilors.”
The speaker also talked about the road closures that came with the WAC and said that “people have talked about taking time off of work because they didn’t know if they could navigate the roadways to get to where they needed to work.”
Another speaker, Anya Dobrowolski with Stop The Sweeps-Eugene, grabbed the microphone.
Dobrowolski began her speech and said “My comrades and I at Stop the Sweeps are heart broken and disgusted to see our government use tax dollars to help the rich raise our rents, build buildings we don’t need, and brutalize our neighbors.”
“The [City of Eugene] has ramped up its criminalization of homelessness, turning non cop departments into part of the policing apparatus so they could systematically harass, intimidate and force evictions of our unhoused neighbors,” she continued. “The numbers show that evictions perpetrated against the unhoused by Parks and Open Space Staff, Eugene Police Department, parking services and other city staff have actually increased since 2019, despite CDC recommendations.”
Specifically talking about the lead-up to the WAC, Dobrowolski said “in the eight months leading up to the WAC—an apt acronym for this event—the [City of Eugene] shut down the two sanctioned encampments where people could legally dwell.” Further, “at the camps’ population peak, the total residents in those two camps numbered nearly 500; the [City of Eugene] contracted with St. Vincent De Paul to offer about 80 beds to accommodate only a fraction of those forcefully shoved out of the camps.”
Moreover, she noted that SVdP doesn’t “meet the federal government’s standards for emergency shelters” and that living there includes “a prison-like setting with multiple bed checks, 24/7 cameras and nowhere to cook.”
Around 5:45 p.m., after the speeches ended, the crowd of about 50 activists and enraged community members began the march towards the Riverfront Festival happening simultaneously with the WAC. Along the route, some passersby—many of them seeming to be tourists—stared at the protesters as they passed by moving towards the Ferry Street Bridge.
Once the crowd of 50 sign- and banner-wielding got near the bridge, the Eugene Police Department and Lane County Sheriffs who were doing crowd control formed a line, blocking the road, and exited their vehicles to immediately put on their riot gear.
Once blocked from going forward, the crowd made a right onto 3rd Street. From there, the march moved towards the 5th Street Alley where more speeches were made in front of the Nike store.
In front of the store—which was guarded by at least four security guards—speeches were made that specifically called-out the company’s founder and chairman emeritus Phil Knight.
Around this time, people within the march noticed a similar sight during protests: EPD’s drone buzzing above.
At 6:35 p.m., the march returned to Campbell Park where they had begun — along with the EPD drone above. At the park, they moved to a large shade-covered part of the grass and some members of the crowd spoke.
One of them, a houseless youth in Eugene, read-off a poem that they had written, prior to the end of the rally around 6:45 p.m.
“I only know that what is happening is that it is sour
Rotting in sourness, decomposing
Opportunist bacteria consuming what’s left of our enigmatic proteins
Sour in having been turned against our sweetness
Now made bitter and our sweetness gone
The stark contrast makes clear
Our decay is permanent
Please let our corpses bring life anew”