A Humble Request for Your Continued Support

The first six months of Double Sided Media’s existence has been one of the most exciting and fulfilling periods of my brief career as a writer and journalist. What began as an informal experiment in local journalism with my friends and colleagues has become a bustling little outlet that is earning the trust of our little community with each story we put together. 

Through everything we’ve experienced–the uprising, the pandemic, personal traumas and a seemingly constant threat of violence–we have consistently put out work that we can proudly stand behind, work that has helped shape the way our readers view and think about our collective experiences in this little corner of the world. 

We did all this because it’s important. When we started Double Sided Media last summer, we did so with the goal of filling in the gaps of local news–a goal of telling stories that other people, for whatever reason, couldn’t do. We’ve been on the ground for some of the most pivotal moments in recent memory, from the police beatdown of Black Unity protesters in Thurston to the Proud Boy rally just this month, always reporting the stories from a perspective that other local outlets couldn’t match. 

I am incredibly proud of what we’ve been able to do in our brief existence, and I hope you, as a loyal reader, feel the same way.

Because, for the first time in our history, we’re explicitly asking for your help and support.

I probably don’t need to tell you, dear reader, that things on the streets are getting hairy. Though Eugene has not seen the sort of consistent unrest and brutal crackdowns that our friends up in Portland and Salem have, it is only a matter of time before we begin to see that here. Between the constant threat of state violence via local police and the increasingly bold actions of far-right militias and local fascists, our safety as street-level journalists has never been more at risk. 

Outside of the occasional private donations and tips from supporters, none of us get paid to do the work we do for DSM. We all have our reasons for volunteering our time for this project, but above all, we go out there day after day and week after week because we fucking love what we do.

And that’s why we, as a collective of indie journalists, are launching our first-ever public fundraiser. 

For the next two weeks, we will be soliciting and accepting donations from generous readers via GoFundMe with the express goal of raising $2000. These funds will be used to purchase plate carriers and ballistic helmets for our team to wear while reporting live at protests and action, as well as some first aid kits and additional COVID protection gear in case the unthinkable happens to befall one of us.

In addition to soliciting donations via our usual social media channels, we’re going to be hosting a pair of special events over the next few weeks in order for our readers to get to know us a little bit better.

  • On Jan. 24, we’ll be hosting a live Q&A session, where the DSM staff will be on camera discussing our accomplishments over the last few months and where we want to see things go from here. Readers will be able to tune in and pick our brains about our stories, our values, and anything else they may be curious about.
  • Then, on Jan. 30, we’ll follow up that first Q&A with the first-ever DSM fundraising livestream marathon. For one whole Saturday, the members of the DSM collective will be continually streaming on Twitch, with each member taking up a block of time to do whatever it is they want to do. There will be table reads of terrible books, thoughtful analyses of Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfiction, streams of video games and so much more. There will even be opportunities for readers to decide what we do in our respective time blocks.

It’s an opportunity for us to be ourselves and an opportunity for you, our readers, to get to know us a little bit better. We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for you–this is the least we can do.

Everything we’ve done over the last six months has been in service to you, our community. We, as a collective of writers, photographers, and creative-types, reject the idea of paywalls surrounding vital information. Our stories are always going to be free to read and free to distribute anywhere you see fit. 

We’re just asking for a little help to keep ourselves going.

No matter what you choose to do, thank you for your continued support, on behalf of myself and the rest of the Double Sided Media team. 

MG Belka

Queercor(P) #2

Queer Liberation from Myanmar to Ireland

To be Queer is an existence of resistance. Many of us hail from and remain entrenched in societies which shackle and brutalize our people, so our resistance remains aflame, defiantly evolving against institutional oppression. Because of this, when time calls for resistance and battling unjust systems, Queer comrades have always been there. 

No, this is not a piece on Queer Liberation. This is one part history lesson and three parts reminder of the unbreakable strength that comes with Queerness. We Queers come from and are all people, so it’s only natural that we’d fight for all people. 

So I’d like to tell you a little about Queer resistance fighters and their legacy.

When the calls for molotovs and clenched fists sound, Queer resistance fighters refuse to stand back and stand down.

Aung Myo Min was a publicly Queer college student at the forefront of the student led protest and marches during Myanmar’s 8888 uprising. After witnessing his comrades brutally arrested, beaten, and killed in the streets, he fled to the jungle—a common tactic in that region. Feeling the need to do more than protest and give speeches, Aung joined and served in the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) and Karen National Union, going from student activist to armed insurgent.

Aung Myo Min’s legacy as an openly gay insurgent and as a Queer rights activist in Myanmar has led to a new generation of queer resistance fighters. As the military coup began their take over on February 1st, Myanmar’s Queer activists were to meet them head on. Min Khant Zin, a drag queen from Yangon, decided to protest for his country’s liberation in drag. Together, they signaled to their country that they’re here, they’re Queer, and they’re to fight for democracy. 

Aung Myo Min (bottom row, third from the left, in glasses) with a militant rebel group in the jungles of Myanmar. (Source)

Zin Maung Soe—a civil and Queer rights activist—and a group of roughly 100 Queer citizens and their allies from various classes, professions, and ethnic backgrounds faced down water cannons and rubber bullets in Mandalay. Fighting for democracy and against the revival of a brutal military dictatorship is also a fight for queer liberation, a fact that is not lost on Myanmar’s new generation of resistance.

But Myanmar’s Queer revolutionaries were far from the first to take to the streets against oppressive regimes.

When Nazi German invaded the Netherlands and began systematically oppressing that country’s Jewish inhabitants, Willem Arondeus refused to comply in silence & willful blindness. A Queer artist and author, his first involvement in the Dutch resistance was publishing the underground political magazine Brandarisbrief. He soon began applying his abilities as an artist and created forged identity cards—used by Dutch Jews to live as gentiles.

Willem Arondeus, cir. 1921

When the need for greater acts of resistance approached, Willem Arondeus, along with his Queer comrades Sjored Bekker, Johan Brower, and 13 other men decided to drug and cuff two Nazis in order to acquire identity cards from the Muncipal Office for Population Registration, which they in turn used to aid Jews in hiding and resistance members. They also secured fifty thousand guilders–Dutch currency at the time–and managed to burn down that government building.

Despite their initial success, all fifteen men were swiftly rounded up. Arondeus, hoping to save his comrades, took full responsibility; even after being tortured, he would not break. 

When the fascists decided they were to be executed, Sjored Bekker requested to wear a pink shirt. The shirt was later used to help identify him and the bodies of his comrades after the war in a mass grave.

Willem Arondeus last words and request was for the world to know that “Homosexuals are not cowards.”

Queer resistance was not limited to the fight against open fascism, either.

The Irish Republican Army’s decades-long resistance against British occupation and imperialism has always had Queer fighters–despite being invisible among the IRA and navigating queerphobia in their own institutions. They still fought for liberation, believing that in order to have Queer liberation, national liberation but must also be achievied. 

This belief of Queer liberation in national liberation inspired Fintan Warfield—a Sinn Féin Senator—to go into politics and declare the martyrs who died in the 1981 hunger strike did so not just for a free Ireland, but for Queer liberation as well.

Acts of resistance have always been committed by Queer individuals, and history shows a clear pattern of Queer camaraderie. Some of these fighters believed when fighting for one people’s liberation, you’re fighting for your own. Due to the intersectionality inherent in Queer existence, no matter where and why, Queer resistance fighters will always punch a fascist, kick back a CS gas canister, and battle the State in the name of liberation.

Queer liberation is liberation from imperialism and colonization, it’s Women’s liberation, Black liberation, and Native liberation. 

And Queer liberation cannot be achieved until all calls for liberation have been answered. 

A Day of Solidarity in Eugene and Springfield

On Feb. 19, approximately 100 people, kids, and dogs showed up on both sides of River Rd. in North Eugene for a Black Lives Matter solidarity rally. 

The rally came after a local resident found a noose made of black rope on their yard waste can on Feb. 13 and their 1972 Volkswagen Type III Squareback was discovered to be vandalized with the “n-word” a couple of days later on Feb. 15. 

A GoFundMe for both the car’s repairs and home-security cameras was launched and its goal reached shortly thereafter with the help of neighbors and local community members. 

(Chance Raffield // Double Sided Media)

The River Road Community Organization called-for community members to gather between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and the solidarity rally was promoted by Community Alliance of Lane County on social media. 

For 90-or-so minutes, the crowd of around 100 stretched along both sides of River Road holding signs, drinking hot cups of SolidariTea, raising fists, and eliciting honks of solidarity from supporting passersby — including a lumber-carrying trucker that got the crowd excited.

(James Croxton // Double Sided Media)

Prior to the scheduled end at 6 p.m., people began to leave and the rally subsequently ended. 

From there, a few from within the crowd traveled to The Rawlin in Springfield for a candlelight vigil led by striking workers in remembrance of the 29 residents who have passed away in recent weeks. 

By 6:15 p.m.—when I arrived—the vigil was well-attended and underway. 

There, on the grass across the street from The Rawlin, an estimated 30 people gathered in front of a tent covering a table with 29 candles—one for each death inside the memory care facility. 

The striking workers stood behind the table, lit a candle after each deceased resident’s room number was said aloud, and then took turns speaking—often through tears—about their love for the deceased. 

(James Croxton // Double Sided Media)

One woman, who isn’t from Oregon said, through tears,  that she’s “been here a long time” and that her co-workers and residents are the only family she has here. 

Since striking, the workers out on the picket line haven’t had any contact with those inside. 

Another woman said “night after night, no one, God only knows what is happening to our residents on the other side of that wall.” 

“We hope for the best. We hope that no one has died in there. We don’t know.”

Many workers spoke, often sharing funny stories about their residents — lots of them receiving laughs and comments of agreement. “1-0-8, oh my god, one of the most stubborn men you met in your entire life,” one said. “I love him so much. He used to always tell me ‘oh well, what if you lose a few.’”

Another worker said “I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with ‘my family’ for two years, and, uh, boy, I have a lot of grandmas and I have a lot of grandpas.” 

In closing, one worker spoke and said, “A majority of Rawlin workers stuck and not one of us has crossed the line to return.” 

“Despite threats, surveillance, bribes, and harassment, we kept our majority and [have] kept each other strong,” she said. “We have filed multiple reports with the Adult Protective Service, Bureau of Labor and Industry, and DHS [Department of Health Services], and active investigations are going on.” 

Editorializing a little, I can say that I truly understand these workers. I, literally, grew up in a nursing home visiting my great-grandmother regularly at the Los Altos Sub-Acute and Rehabilitation Center in California. Later, too. 

By later, I mean a decade-or-so and my mother’s first brain surgery to excise a Glioblastoma resulted in a severe infection. She survived sepsis thanks to her stay at the very same care facility my great-grandmother was at. 

In fact, she was in the care of the exact same Certified Nursing Assistant, Yen—a middle-to-late-aged Vietnamese woman with a heart of gold—that I had known since childhood.  

I vividly remember the look on her face after seeing my family and I walk-in after several years away. At first, it was joyous. Then, almost instantly, the mood turned dark and, frankly, I think that was when she realized that we weren’t there for a visit. 

Eugene Rising, Part VII

How Eugene Was Lost

This is the final chapter of a seven-part series on the history of activism and protest in Eugene, Oregon. To start from the beginning, click here.

We’re doing something different with this story, because that’s what we’re all about – trying new things.

As you read through this story, you’ll notice a series of formatting choices that, at first, may appear really obnoxious. But don’t worry: this is intentional, and will help you understand the way we’re approaching it.

Here in the middle, where there’s no formatting at all, is where you’ll find the neutral narrative that we’re engaging with throughout the story. 

A savvy reader might consider this the closest approximation we, as journalists obsessed with historical documents and public records, could find to an objective truth.

When you see this toxic green color, you’ll be reading the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-in-Chief MG Belka.

And when you see this pink color that happens to match his protest helmet and nails, you’ll have the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-at-Large James Croxton.

We did this because we believe that it is important to engage with history as we uncover it, and that engaging with history means constantly critiquing it, challenging it, and–when deserved–making fun of it, too.

But we don’t want to make the mistake of passing off those critiques and analyses as objective, since so many people still seem to believe that such a thing exists, and we don’t want to mix our own biases and perspectives with the hard research that we used to put this story together.

And with that, it’s time to wrap things up.

All You Fascists:
The Reactionaries Take Control

MG Belka:
It’s easy to say this now, with the benefit of hindsight, but the Thurston protest was doomed from the beginning. 

As a large, animated crowd gathered at Jesse Maine Memorial Park on a day I remember being unbearably hot and humid, it was immediately clear that Black Unity and their affiliates were not nearly as welcome in Thurston as they were in Eugene. The neighbors stood at the ends of their driveways and scowled, while the Springfield Police made their presence far more apparent than their counterparts in Eugene typically did.

Before the march even began, arguments and debates began to unfold on the periphery of the park, including one lively argument between Black Unity leaders and a few counter-protesters – including Corey Wyatt, a white supremacist currently serving prison time in Idaho.

The same faces that had appeared in Eugene on the 25th were there in Thurston on the 29th, but this time they had what could be described as home-field advantage. They were empowered by the idea that Black Unity had invaded their turf and were defending the neighborhood from so-called “Antifa terrorists” and reacted as such. 

Counter-protesters followed the march throughout the neighborhood, only peeling off once the crowd of some 200 people came up against a barricade set up by Springfield police. They instead took up positions behind the police lines and waited for things to unfold.

What followed was a brutal confrontation between police and counter-protesters. There was no tear gas, just raw physical violence, much of which was captured on video and circulated online. Black Unity leader Tyshawn Ford can be seen being dragged by his legs and beaten while on his back. Others were pepper-sprayed in the eyes at close range. Seven people were arrested and several people suffered serious injuries that required transport to a hospital.

The police assault shocked and dazed the protesters, who made a messy, disorganized retreat back toward Jesse Maine Park. The counter-protesters, smelling blood in the water, returned to harass the scattered protesters. With the night turning into a big chaotic scrum of arguments and threats, Black Unity called it a night and urged people to leave the neighborhood before things escalated further.

But the counter-protesters wouldn’t let people leave so easily, not before taking a few shots of their own. At the end of the night, a member of the Eugene Wall of Moms was assaulted by Geena (Shipman) Hager, leaving the protest medic with a serious concussion. Meanwhile, Hager’s future partner, Rob Davis, captured the license plates of cars leaving the neighborhood.

Hager would be arrested and charged the following day, but was released soon after. It would not be the last anyone heard from her.

Even journalists covering the protest were intimidated by the far-right counter-protesters, including one moment where a man holding a baseball bat quizzed me about my political affiliations. 

James Croxton:
That night, someone hilariously decided to vandalize my car with a Trump 2020 bumper sticker.

MG Belka:
The events in Thurston would have far-reaching implications. In my mind, it represents the turning point of Eugene’s role in the Uprising. The folks that had gathered for what was going to be a peaceful march did not anticipate the hostility they would encounter in the deeply conversative neighborhood on the far-edge of the Eugene-Springfield metropolis, and were effectively beaten by a force that they far outnumbered.

Yes, the Springfield Police would come under fire for their response to the protest, eventually leading to the hiring of an outside investigator to determine whether the department acted appropriately. But Thurston led to two key developments that would effectively neuter public dissent in Eugene and Springfield.

Firstly, it caused Black Unity–who were already growing more unpopular among local radicals–to take an extended hiatus while the group licked their wounds and dealt with the legal fallout of having their leadership arrested.

Secondly–and more importantly–it boosted the confidence of the far-right militia in the area, who would quickly come to embrace their role as disruptors of the movement in Eugene. 

From then on, not a single protest would occur in Eugene without some sort of far-right presence. Sometimes they would appear in force for direct confrontations. Mostly, they would stalk marches from their cars at a short distance away, always keeping an eye on events in case they found an opportunity to confront a rowdy protest march.

James Croxton:
The next day, Black Unity leadership made the decision to not immediately return to Springfield. Instead, they took a short hiatus to deal with the legal fallout of what had happened and to focus on their leaders’ injuries — including Duane Robinson’s broken ribs and Martin Allum’s nose.  

But local activists weren’t going to let SPD—or the city’s government—get away with what was, frankly, a brutal assault by the police. As a result, activists and former Black Unity leaders Isiah Wagoner and Moses Jackson formed the Minority Freedom Network. 

Later that day, around 150 people marched to Mayor Christine Lundberg’s home. Undeniably taking a pointer from when Eugene’s mayor was confronted at home the month prior, Lundberg stepped-outside. She spoke for a brief time, and Wagoner, as the crowd was about to leave asked her for a departing “Black Lives Matter.”

Lundberg replied “Black lives matter, and all lives matter,” prompting more condemnation from the crowd as they left. 

MG Belka:
It’s hard to imagine that listening to Lundberg talk out of both sides of her mouth didn’t arouse some cynicism among the marchers, who were furious about both the civilian and police reaction to Thurston. There was still hope that the protests would achieve institutional change at the city and county level, but that hope had begun to dwindle faster than ever.

The rally at Lundberg’s house signaled that local officials were growing weary of the constant protests and demands for change. The mayors and city councils of both Eugene and Springfield constantly reaffirmed their support of Black lives and “peaceful protest” in public statements and speeches, but refused to openly condemn their respective police departments and the growing threat posed by fascist organizing in Lane County.

But they had to do something. The people in charge knew that they had to put a lid on the city’s unrest soon. The late ‘90s and early ‘00s were not so long ago, and with the eyes of the world focused squarely on the Pacific Northwest, no one in a position of power wanted Eugene/Springfield to reclaim its old title of “Anarchist Capital of the World.”

So the cities returned to the same counter-revolutionary tactics that had proven successful throughout its history: co-optation by the liberal power structure and reactionary organization by right-wing opposition.

On Aug. 3, before the wounds suffered in Thurston had a chance to heal, a contingent of activists with the controversial American Descendants of Slavery movement held a rally in Eugene, attracting top officials from across the city, including Mayor Vinis and Chief Skinner.

The group, whose leadership has ties to anti-immigration groups, spent the afternoon crediting the city for taking steps to address policing, praising Chief Skinner for his “commitment to police reform” and arguing that calling for the abolition of police is “problematic.”

It would be the only time the group appeared in Eugene.

James Croxton:
Don’t get me wrong. There were some other, odd, yet notable events, too. 

There was the QAnon rally in Springfield that DoubleSided Media Lead Contributor Janusz Malo and I went to where we ended up being the only two people that showed up. 

Then there was the really odd day where DSM Managing Editor David Galbreath and I—later joined by Eugene Weekly’s Taylor Griggs—went to New Hope BIble College where the Oregon Patriots Militia had been asked to run security for an outdoor church service, citing vague online threats by Antifa.  

After thinking over what transpired and reviewing the footage, I, and others, believe it to have been a failed trap to entice the antifascists into an ambush.

Armed “security” pictured leaving the grounds of New Hope Bible College in Eugene on the day that there were rumors about antifascists coming to take down the Skinner Butte KKKross on campus. (James Croxton // Double Sided Media)

MG Belka:
Though I wasn’t there for that supposed Antifa trap, I think that was around the time I began to suspect that the far-right militia presence in Eugene was a little more savvy, and therefore more dangerous, than I imagined. 

The trap itself was pretty silly. I can’t imagine any antifascists that would make the trek out to Bailey Hill to supposedly vandalize a 51-foot-tall concrete cross located on acres of private property guarded by hostile and paranoid militia in the middle of the afternoon. Antifascists–the well-prepared ones, at least–are obsessed with blending-in and having an escape plan in case things get spicy. Black bloc, as a tactic, does not work in wide-open grassy fields. If this really was an antifascist trap, it showed that the militia did not yet understand their opponents or how they operated.

But the fact that the militia tried to lay a trap in the first place signaled that things were quickly changing in the battle for the streets of Eugene. 

It would not be the last time local fascists employed this tactic.

James Croxton:
On Aug. 5, the United Anarchists and Communists of Eugene, Oregon held their first—and so far only—protest beginning at the federal courthouse.  

MG Belka:
Earlier that same day, news broke that EPD was making the first batch of arrests stemming from the May 29 riot, sweeping up and charging 11 people with felony charges. It was also the same day that a grand jury declined to press charges in the Travis Waleri hit-and-run case.

In other words, it was an ideal moment for an upstart radical group to make a stand against a police force that was seemingly taking revenge on anti-police protesters.

James Croxton:
Shortly after the smaller crowd began marching, around 50 counter-protesters appeared from in-between two abandoned buildings and began to follow closely.

Notably, the famous Snack Van from Portland was there. At the time, it was exciting, but later activists across the state became aware of Jeva, its driver’s, transgressions towards other activists

The crowd marched to the county jail, did their thing, and were, once again, confronted by counter-protestersone even did a Sieg Heil. After a while of back-and-forth, the counter-protesters fell behind and the protest ended with people leaving to go home. 

Of all the protests I’d seen throughout the summer, this one came closest to being a massacre. The little march they called for on Aug. 5 was sparsely attended–for a while, it seemed there were more journalists than protesters there that night–but it attracted a considerable response from the newly empowered far-right street gangs. Geena Hager, Rob Davis and their patriotic street gang once again appeared to lead the far-right opposition and this time, they had the numbers on their side. 

But things quieted down a bit after Aug. 5. 

With EPD eagerly hunting down participants in the May riots and the local TV news channels seemingly tripping over themselves to help out, the various protest groups took themselves off the street for a little while. After building considerable momentum, Eugene suddenly found itself in a vacuum.

Small protests and events popped up throughout the fall, usually organized autonomously by unknown anarchist types. Most of these were short marches or vigils outside the jail or in various parks around town. Speakers at these impromptu events, sensing the sea change in the Uprising, practically begged people to take matters into their own hands instead of waiting for leaders to organize marches and actions. 

But for the most part, no one seemed willing to do so. As the nights grew longer and the air grew colder, the widespread anger and demands for justice that had sent thousands of people into the streets seemed to vanish all at once.

James Croxton:
On Aug. 7, Isiah Wagoner—who had left Black Unity by this point—led a “Justice for Isiah” march through the neighborhood where he was previously struck by Travis Waleri and his car. Insisting throughout the march that this wasn’t a campaign event, Wagoner repeatedly launched into political speeches. He would announce his candidacy for mayor three four days later.

The next day, a “March for Black Trans Lives” was held by both Eugene Pride and Black Unity. Several hundred people gathered and the overly-peaceful event that ended at Skinner Butte Park was only majorly interrupted once when a counter-protester, who had been following the march, nearly hit a car and almost flipped over his own truck.

On Aug. 24, a leaderless group of protesters took to the streets in solidarity with Kenosha, Wisconsin where Jacob Blake was shot seven times and paralyzed below the waist. 

Gina (Hager) Shipman and Corey Eugene Wyatt both confronted the crowd and, in front of Jameson’s Bar, were surrounded. Shipman’s cell phone was snatched out of her hand and a chase down the street ensued. It ended after the phone snatcher turned around and punched Shipman in the head and a brief scuffle on the asphalt.

MG Belka:
Geena sure stopped showing her face around Eugene for a while after that.

James Croxton:
A few days later on Aug. 28, the city was blessed by the presence of the Portland protest’s Caesar the No Drama Llama during the “March in Solidarity with the D.C. Commitment Rally.”

MG Belka:
On the other side, local MAGA and “patriot” types began making themselves more and more public. In the middle of August, far-right and fascist groups like The American Patriot Society and We the People of Lane County hosted a cookout and rally in downtown Springfield, where the who’s who of local fascists attempted to solidify their regular presence in the community. 

James Croxton:
Things became really interesting on the counter-protester side on Sept. 4 when a flyer for a pop-up anti-racist protest was privately circulated around. Very few showed up — but the counter-protesters, including currently incarcerated Proud Boy, Alan Swinney, arrived in numbers, and armed with mostly paintball guns.

MG Belka:
These are important developments.

As left-wing activists in the city struggled to maintain their momentum, local reactionaries continued to build upon their minor successes by making attempts to legitimize themselves as a faction around Eugene.

And they started using the left’s playbook. 

While their primary focus continued to be confronting and countering left-wing activity around Eugene, the local fascist groups began expanding their scope as well. When the Holiday Farm Fire broke out in early September, flooding Springfield with evacuees from the Mohawk and McKenzie Valleys, we discovered that the local so-called “patriot” groups were beginning to organize mutual aid networks for evacuees. They even set up their own street medic tent

Trucks like this one were seen coming in and out of the Holiday Farm Fire evacuation centers throughout the crisis. (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

As absurd rumors about antifascists sparking Oregon’s wildfires began to proliferate on Facebook, their presence increased. The same faces who had spent months threatening protesters in Eugene were seen patrolling evac centers and confronting volunteers that they believed to be affiliated with “Antifa.”

Once again, no one confronted them. Their presence was cautiously accepted by stressed-out and overworked locals. The fascists made themselves right at home.

James Croxton:
By mid-September, the Lane County Jail wised-up to the repeated visits by protests and began to erect a wall surrounding the plaza. 

MG Belka:
These appeared to be defensive measures against a new wave of unrest that people believed would follow in the wake of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s decision not to prosecute the cops who killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

On Sept. 23, the night of the announcement, Black Unity once again took to the streets in solidarity with Louisville and other cities. But unlike past BU marches, a subset of protesters openly declared that they were sick of marching around without doing anything and set off on their own march through town. 

The smaller group dragged mattresses and trash cans into the street while being followed by what had become an omnipresent fascist street patrol. Once the group marched onto the University of Oregon campus, a tense standoff ensued between the fascists and the protesters, with EPD officers waiting nearby in riot gear in case things got out of hand. The group briefly considered making a stand on the street outside the EMU, but ultimately decided to split off into the night.

Black Unity marches frequently led protesters to the front of the Lane County Jail, where they would often have short speeches and solidarity chants with the prisoners inside. (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

The following day, EPD announced they had arrested a couple of protesters for minor misdemeanors.

Another confrontation followed a week later, when a pair of unmarked lifted pickup trucks menaced a Black Unity march in downtown Eugene. The standoff was brief, but it was yet more proof that the far-right elements had essentially taken over policing protests in the city.

All the while, the city was channeling energy into further co-opting the righteous anger of the protests into the newly formed Council Ad-Hoc Committee on Police Policy, who began holding meetings in late Sept. 

The committee, which included representatives from Black Unity as well as a nearly a dozen other non-profit and advocacy groups representing marginalized people from around the city–plus the police department–was tasked with recommending reforms to EPD’s standards, though those recommendations are explicitly non-binding.

Far-right counter-protesters and fascist groups showed up to harass a Black Unity rally on Sept. 30, the anniversary of the Elaine massacre. (Chance Raffield // Double Sided Media)

James Croxton:
Spooky Season brought the second major thing to happen on the University of Oregon campus. On Oct. 4, members of ReclaimUO chained themselves to Johnson Hall — the administrative building that houses President Michael Schill’s office.

Their demands were that the UO: 
1. Disarm the University of Oregon Police Department.
2. Divest from fossil fuels
3. Democratize the Board of Trustees.

The next day, after Schill spoke with them and agreed to a face-to-face meeting, protesters removed themselves

DoubleSided Media later released the audio from that agreed-upon meeting between ReclaimUO activists and Schill.

Three student activists chained to the door of Johnson Hall on the morning after the occupation began. (MG Belka // Double Sided Media)

MG Belka:
Though the occupation was relatively brief, the pressure did lead to modest changes within the university police department, namely a small reduction in the number of armed police and the hiring of new unarmed “community service officers” in plain clothes. President Schill also claimed that there would be more reforms to the department’s policies, but those have yet to materialize.

This is not what the protesters demanded, obviously, but it was yet another sign that local leaders were willing to concede tiny reforms if it meant tamping down vigorous unrest.

James Croxton:
A couple of days later, on Oct. 6, Black Unity took to the streets for their “The Myth of Reverse Racism” march beginning at University Park. 

Starting late, the march was preceded by a quick speech by one of BU’s lead security men who identified himself as their official police liasion. He outlined his role and said that if anything were to happen, protesters were to go to him instead of directly to the police.  

As the crowd marched through the UO campus, I remember remarking to other press about having never seen so many cops—both EPD and UOPD—in front, and behind us. 

After getting home and beginning to digest what had happened that night, the cop presence and the earlier “police liaison” announcement clicked-together.

The next day, BU went on the defense as people began to ask about the prior day’s events and police connection. BU responded saying that they weren’t aware of their security’s communications

Three days later, on Oct. 9, BU led the “Justice for Jonathan Price” march through the UO campus. This time, though, BU acknowledged the large number of UOPD cruisers following the crowd and said that they were “unwanted.” 

MG Belka:
By November, even these occasional weekly protests fell off. Those contentious days ahead of the election, during which the whole country seemed ready to seize each other by the throats, were mostly quiet in Eugene. The city’s liberals, who had mostly ceased participating in street protests, also organized a tone-deaf and extremely embarrassing “Rally for Democracy” in front of the federal courthouse after it became clear that Donald Trump had lost the election. It brought out much of the city and county leadership, including law enforcement, as if to draw distinct lines as to which rallies were endorsed.

Even after the election–which seems so long ago now–there were only minor “Stop the Steal” demonstrations that were sparsely attended. 

But the fascists continued to creep into positions of influence around the city.

James Croxton:
On Nov. 8, hundreds of MAGA protesters rallied at Oregon’s capitol in Salem, Oregon for a “Stop The Steal” rally. In a since-deleted post on Instagram, members of the University of Oregon College Republicans were photographed with Proud Boy flags in the background. 

Instagram post depicting members of the UO College Republicans with known and assumed members of the Proud Boys

In the post they said, “CR’s showing support at the Salem rally yesterday!” 

A couple of weeks later, the college’s student government sought to discipline the political club for not only attending, and supporting a rally that not only supported widely unproven conspiracies of election fraud, but did so with selfie prominently featuring Proud Boy imagery as their backdrop.

Many called for their deplatforming as a student group and revoking their funding via student’s incidental-fees.

On Nov. 24, the university’s student government, the Associated Students of the University of Oregon, or ASUO, senate unanimously passed a resolution to condemn white supremacy. 

Despite where the group decided to take, and position, their selfie, UOCR’s president Will Christensen said that their “efforts at this rally have nothing to do with an endorsement of the Proud Boys.”

Nothing to do with them AT ALL.

Unbeknownst to most prior to UOCR’s presence at the rally and it’s ensuing controversy, the political club had published a—also since deleted—interview with a leader of a Texan chapter of the Proud Boys.  

On Dec. 19, UOCR’s political director, Isiah De Alba, went on Fox & Friends and defended his club’s actions with host Jedediah Bila — the former conservative voice at The View prior to Megan McCain.

During the interview, Parsa Aghel’s opinion-piece, ”It’s time for the University of Oregon College Fascists to go,” was incorrectly broadcast as an editorial by the Daily Emerald. During the short segment, De Alba reiterated that the UOCR would not condemn the Proud Boys.” 

De Alba similarly defended the club during that ASUO meeting and said that “we do our best to provide neutrality within our own political reason for the simple fact that not everyone who goes to our club meet or are associated with our club thinks the same.”

In the end, the student government, citing limited powers, was unable to levy consequences on the student group. 

MG Belka:
The shooting of Muhsin Sharif by EPD officers on Nov. 30 briefly brought anti-police feelings back to the streets of Eugene, but little was done in response to the shooting beyond a candlelit vigil and a single Black Unity-led march through the Whiteaker – which was again vigorously harassed by fascist counter-protesters. 

It would be the last notable protest in Eugene for several months. 

Meanwhile, the far-right and fascist agitators from Lane County began to pop up around the state. Geena Davis and her crew were spotted at several protests at the Oregon Capitol in Salem, which grew increasingly violent as Trump supporters doubled-down on their belief that they had been robbed of electoral victory. 

Tim Davis, one of the leaders of a fascist group calling themselves The American Patriot Society–and who I caught on video in Thurston threatening to come to my house–was spotted at the D.C. Capitol insurrection, as well as several protests in Portland and Salem.

All this culminated in the fascist rally on Jan. 9, where we finally admitted to ourselves that Eugene had been lost.


MG Belka:
With over 150 years of this city’s history now filed away in various parts of my brain, I like to believe that I have a good idea of which direction Eugene is headed.

And yet, I find it impossible to predict what happens next.

James Croxton:
I’m in the same boat. I think it’s easy—when looking at Eugene’s history from a distance—to see where this current cycle is headed.   

MG Belka:
Throughout its past, Eugene seems to have adhered to a cycle of progress and reaction about every decade or so. For every decade that brings some positive change or some acknowledgement of past mistakes, there seems to follow a decade of backlash and desperate attempts to push back against the inevitable march of progress.

But Eugene’s recent history isn’t so clean. There hasn’t been a proper citizen-level reactionary movement in local affairs since the early ‘90s–most of the backlash against Eugene’s various movements have come from local, state, and federal law enforcement. Whatever dissent the police could not crush was slowly co-opted by politicians and repackaged as election-friendly reforms.

James Croxton:
Through this research, it’s clear to both of us by now that Eugene’s history is, literally, just a really long game of tug-of-war. Sometimes it’s between citizens in the form of protesters and counter-protesters and other times it’s between citizens and their government.

MG Belka:
I happen to think that dark days lie ahead for the city. The organized fascist movement in Eugene-Springfield has seized the initiative and successfully ingrained themselves as a consistent presence in the area. Antiracist, anticapitalist, and antifascist work in Eugene is still being undertaken in earnest–especially in defense of the unhoused–but much of their focus has remained on building mutual aid networks and surveilling the growing far-right presence in Lane County, rather than confronting it head-on.

And that growing far-right presence will almost certainly begin to influence politics in Eugene. We’re already seeing it happen, with at least once City Councilor openly embracing far-right agitators during public meetings. Even those who are not explicitly sympathetic to right-wing causes are showing signs that they’ve grown weary of activists that demand the bare minimum from elected officials. 

James Croxton:
I tend to agree, and, I’ve spoken with MG about how I see things playing out in the future. 

In gist, I believe that while we will see a liberal, more progressive shift in politics at the national level, things aren’t going to look so bright in Eugene. Locally, as MG just noted above, the city’s own council members are not only sympathizing with far-right agitators, but are steering—with the support of an ever-organizing local militia—the city towards a new wave of conservatism.    

MG Belka:
Before I came here, I’d heard much about Eugene’s history of activism and left-wing politics, but never knew the details behind that reputation. After a few years of living here, I’d come to believe that it was all overblown, and that the neoliberals that now run this town had successfully painted themselves a brighter picture than was actually true.

James Croxton:
Prior to moving here, I had, literally, heard people compare the University of Oregon to University of California, Berkeley So, naturally, I thought this was city was seriously going to be lib-central, but after living here and then seeing this latest wave of activism and protests first-hand, I know this to not be the case.   

MG Belka:
I saw glimpses of Eugene’s past and visions of its future over the course of a few hot summer days. And having seen that, it’s hard to believe that it won’t be back before long.

Thanks for reading–we wouldn’t have attempted such an expansive project if we didn’t believe that there was some merit to learning about the history of a place, both good and bad.

If you like what we do and would like to support future endeavors, please consider becoming a subscriber through
Patreon. Your support means the world to us, and really helps us achieve our goal of becoming a fully independent alternative news source for Eugene, Lane County, and beyond.

…oh, shit, is it over?

I guess it’s over now.

Eugene Rising, Part VI

How a Dumpster Fire Brought Eugene Together Before Tearing It Apart

This is penultimate installment of a seven-part series on the history of activism and protest in Eugene, Oregon. To start from the beginning, click here.

We’re doing something different with this story, because that’s what we’re all about – trying new things.

As you read through this story, you’ll notice a series of formatting choices that, at first, may appear really obnoxious. But don’t worry: this is intentional, and will help you understand the way we’re approaching it.

Here in the middle, where there’s no formatting at all, is where you’ll find the neutral narrative that we’re engaging with throughout the story. 

A savvy reader might consider this the closest approximation we, as journalists obsessed with historical documents and public records, could find to an objective truth.

When you see this toxic green color, you’ll be reading the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-in-Chief MG Belka.

And when you see this pink color that happens to match his protest helmet and nails, you’ll have the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-at-Large James Croxton.

We did this because we believe that it is important to engage with history as we uncover it, and that engaging with history means constantly critiquing it, challenging it, and–when deserved–making fun of it, too.

But we don’t want to make the mistake of passing off those critiques and analyses as objective, since so many people still seem to believe that such a thing exists, and we don’t want to mix our own biases and perspectives with the hard research that we used to put this story together.

Anyway, here‘s where we start ditching the research and relying on our own experiences.

 The Uprising

James Croxton:
After months and months of protests following the murder of George Floyd, the city of Eugene has been taken over by the fascist Right. 

MG Belka:
On Jan. 9, 2021—three days after Proud Boys and MAGA fanatics stormed the United States Capitol—approximately 75 members of the fascist far-right held a rally in front of the Wayne Lyman Morse Federal Courthouse. With a little bit of help from the Eugene Police Department, they were able to successfully hold their rally, deemed “Stand Against Socialism,” with little interference from local antifascists.

Sure, a few bold and brave antifascists showed up to oppose the rally, which included at least two dozen members of the Proud Boys. But they were terribly outnumbered and unable to do anything more than get into arguments and shouting matches with the more loose-cannon members of the far-right. 

James Croxton:
Exactly one fight broke out, which led to several people getting beaten with fists and flagpoles. The police swept in, broke it up and declared a riot. Then, 15 minutes later, the riot was undeclared.

MG Belka:
It was far from the most violent day Eugene had seen in recent memory. But it was probably the saddest, because it seemed to confirm what James and I–and many others–had long suspected.

As James and I left the rally, spooked by the open and targeted harassment we were receiving—and not entirely sure that we hadn’t walked into a trap—we debriefed one another on what we had just seen. Then, building off an earlier conversation, we came to the conclusion that the streets of Eugene–the pavement we’d been pounding for months covering an uprising–no longer belonged to Black Lives Matter protesters and kids in black bloc.

The streets here belong to the fascists now.

James Croxton
I had, literally called-it days prior but now it was real — and far scarier than I had imagined.

MG Belka:
We came to that conclusion because we had just watched it happen ourselves. And though we’re not alone, many don’t realize this truth quite yet. The people of Eugene will not readily admit that their city has been claimed by the increasingly violent and restless fascist wing of American politics. In the eyes of locals, Eugene is still a bastion of progressivism and a model city for liberals. Many believe that its storied history as a hub of civil disobedience and a bastion for radicals still rings true.

So we decided to look at the history and tear that myth apart.

James Croxton
But when it was time for the two of us to look at Eugene’s most recent history, we knew that we couldn’t remain objective. This is our history. We lived and experienced all of it—tear gas and pepperballs included— ourselves. We both believe that through telling the recent history through our own perspectives will not only be insightful, but that an objective truth can be found in-between.

So, here’s our history.

Eugene. Got. Mad. Again.

MG Belka:
I know I did.

James Croxton:
It began on May 29, 2020 — four days after George Floyd was killed. I had just gotten undressed, was standing in my bedroom, and about to go to bed when I saw the tweet from then-Managing Editor of the Daily Emerald, Donny Morrison. 

He was in downtown Eugene at the scene of a large protest where a dumpster, among other objects, was on fire. 

Naturally, curiosity got the best of me. I got dressed, got in my car, and headed towards the scene. The night, from peaceful protest to declared riot and Eugene’s first taste of CS, or tear gas, for the first time in a long while is well-documented in tweets from The Torch that evening.

At the time, I was the film and television reporter for the Daily Emerald and the copy editor for Lane Community College’s The Torch. Little did I know then that I would discover a passion for conflict journalism and help jumpstart DoubleSided Media with two former Editors-in-Chief.  

MG Belka:
I was there that night too, but not as a journalist – not in an official capacity, at least. I was on the tail end of what I’ve come to refer to as The Lost Year, and – well, let’s just say I wasn’t doing a whole lot of writing at the time.

But I’d seen the entire night play out from the very beginning, when a few dozen people gathered at the Free Speech Plaza to have a little march in solidarity with the people of Minneapolis. 

That night felt different. It really did. There was a palpable anger among the people that gathered. I felt it hours before the dumpsters were set aflame and rocks started going through Starbucks’ windows. 

James Croxton:
The next night, less than 100 people defied a city-wide curfew and took to the streets in smaller groups, separating themselves from each other and avoiding a large mass. At some point, while gathered in a parking lot near E. 14th Ave., EPD decided to attempt to disperse a crowd and deployed tear gas from the turret of their Lenco BearCat G2

While they did, indeed, disperse protesters from the parking lot, EPD managed to also find themselves in controversy, and, ultimately, a lawsuit from the Civil Liberties Defense Center. During the volley of tear gas, EPD hit Eugene Weekly reporter Henry Houston at point-blank-range as he held up his press credentials.

And they caught the whole thing on video.

Houston, who wanted policy change, was later awarded $45,000 from the city. No policies were ever changed — or even considered for change.  

What followed, at least for a few months, were almost daily protests and marches throughout Eugene and Springfield — many of them led by the area’s new, and lively, activist group, Black Unity. Others, mostly direct actions—and there were plenty of them—were led by smaller groups such as, but not limited to, BIPOC Liberation Collective and the United Anarchists and Communists of Eugene, Oregon.   

Activism on UO’s campus also seemed to ramp-up with groups such as DisarmUO, ReclaimUO, and the UO Young Democratic Socialists, among others, leading the charge.

May 31—just two days after the riot—was probably the biggest day for Eugene activism in years. Led by Madeliene and Spencer Smith’s Black Led Action Coalition, an estimated eight to ten thousand people gathered at the Federal Courthouse prior to marching over the Ferry St. Bridge and into Alton Baker Park.  

Thousands marched on the Ferry Street Bridge that day en route to Alton Baker Park. (Photo by David Geitgey Sierralupe, via Flickr)

MG Belka:
There’s a part of me that wants to look back at that first Sunday of The Uprising with a cynical eye in order to pick everything apart – to look at how drastically the American landscape has changed between then and now, to use the power of hindsight to point out how clueless all of us were about what we were coming up against.

But, I still get warm and fuzzy feelings about that day, even knowing what I know now. I can be cynical about anything and everything, but there’s really something magical about the sight of ten thousand people marching across a bridge in the name of social justice. 

That day was special. That day made me believe that things were really going to change. That day had me thinking that the people of Eugene had finally opened their eyes, that its well-meaning but largely misguided citizenry had finally decided to get their heads out of their asses and just fucking do something already. A single protest march, no matter how big, cannot achieve lasting change, but it was hard to believe that ten thousand people would participate in a march without eventually following up with true, concrete action.

As the country rose up against the police, with riots erupting in Minneapolis and the opening salvos of tear gas being launched in Portland, Eugene seemed ready to reclaim its once-radical mantle.

On June 7, a splinter march that broke off from a larger BLM protest brought several hundred people to the EPD’s headquarters on Country Club Rd., where some proceeded to vandalize the plywood that had been installed to protect the building’s precious windows and tore down pro-police posters that had been tacked to the wood by sympathetic citizens. 

Through the metal door that guarded the entrance to EPD’s underground parking lot, one could see EPD officers donning riot gear and checking their weapons, preparing to repel the storming of the precinct they surely believed was coming. 

But, somehow, cooler heads prevailed, and the group retreated from EPD HQ without incident.

James Croxton:
The recent resurgence in the city’s protest scene didn’t take long to hit the University of Oregon — where it once prospered and was, frankly, centered.

MG Belka:
On June 13, I attended a teach-in organized by the BIPOC Liberation Collective in front of the building formerly known as Deady Hall. For over an hour, I sat among a crowd of well over 100 people and listened as people far smarter than I spoke of the university’s history of racism and the need for radical community empowerment to fight rising tides of fascism. Others offered advice on forming affinity groups and lauded the importance of autonomous organizing in the growing unrest against the police and the State.

Then, not long after the last speaker finished up, a voice called for some volunteers to participate in a direct action. A few dozen, dressed in various shades of black, heeded the call and gathered in front of The Pioneer – the controversial symbol of Manifest Destiny that had weathered many prior attempts to have it removed. 

As the sun fell, people began wrapping ropes around the head and neck of the statue. Someone with an electric saw worked on the bolts that fastened the statue to its mount. Within a few moments, a few dozen people had taken up positions on a long rope. 

The statue was toppled with almost no resistance. The sound of metal crashing on concrete was drowned out by cheers and applause. The person with the electric saw began performing surgery on the statue’s head and arms while the statue topplers plotted what to do next. Someone suggested that they drag that statue to the river and throw it in. Others helpfully pointed out that there was no way they could carry it that far without being arrested, and instead suggested that they drag it onto the steps of Johnson Hall, which was just across the street – a far more manageable distance. 

Consensus was achieved, and the statue was dragged up the marble steps of the administration building and dropped in front of the double doors. 

Oops! (via KEZI)

With adrenaline pumping through the veins of the gathered, the small group turned its attention to the Pioneer Mother, which stood on the other side of Johnson Hall. That statue was taken down just as efficiently as The Pioneer had been. 

But by then, reporters with local radio and TV stations had begun snapping photos and video of the vandalism, despite stern warnings from the group against documentation. With news of the action out in the world, the group was content to call it a success and quickly dissipated into the growing night, leaving behind two battered statues and one pissed-off university president.

James Croxton:
On June 23, BIPOC Liberation Collective held a planned march beginning in Eugene’s more-affluent South HIlls. That evening, just under 100 people marched to Mayor Lucy Vinis’ home, banging pots and pans. After causing a ruckus outside of her fenced-in home, the mayor came out and addressed the crowd.

Simultaneously, protest security had spotted EPD officers in riot gear assembling a few blocks over. After a brief conversation in front of the main group, Vinis, along with a few members of BLC, security, and a couple of journalists, including myself, walked a ways downhill. At the base, Vinis made a phone call, apparently calling-off EPD’s mobilization, and the crowd left shortly thereafter. However, unbeknownst to us down the hill, protesters had burned their signs to ashes on her driveway

MG Belka:
Here, Lucy Vinis called on the wisdom of past mayors of Eugene and attempted to open a dialogue with the protesters that had come to her doorstep. In this sense, Vinis was more Les Anderson than Jim Torrey; she hoped that the citizens of her town would stand down if only they felt like they were being heard.

Meanwhile, the police were on standby, ready to intervene at the slightest sign of unrest.

James Croxton:
A few days later, on June 26, Black Unity held a protest beginning at Splash! at Lively Park in Springfield. Marching through neighborhoods, BU leadership and the crowd of a few hundred grew irritated with the counter-protesters and multiple lines of Springfield police officers in riot gear and decided to move the protest downtown to the Springfield Library.

Now, I, frankly, have no idea what instigated this, but out of nowhere everyone started running  through the parking garage towards Main St. 

SPD cut them off through an alleyway and almost immediately deployed their sound cannon. The crowd didn’t stay long, though, and soon began running again  in an attempt to cut-off SPD. They managed to get to Main St. and I almost immediately saw the first assault by SPD that night. SPD then confiscated the keys to BU’s truck that was leading the protest but gave them back soon after. 

The night was still young and counter-protesters became tearing up-and-down the street, revving their motorcycle engines.  Eventually, a brawl between the two groups ensued and SPD intervened. After some time, and another advancement on BLM protesters, specifically, by SPD, people left.

On June 28, BU held a children’s-oriented march through Eugene neighborhoods and thinking that I wouldn’t have much to report on, decided to take one of the few days-off during that summer. 

Around 7:30 p.m., I heard that a car had driven through the crowd as they crossed through a roundabout and struck BU’s then-leader Isiah Wagoner, as he shielded his daughter. Protesters followed the car to an apartment complex and remained there until EPD eventually arrested the driver, Travis Waleri.

Months later, a grand jury chose to not indict Waleri, however, he was cited for “careless driving, failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian and driving the wrong way in a traffic circle.” 

MG Belka:
As June turned to July, the unrest continued to grow, and officials began scrambling to put Band-Aids on the systemic issues people were protesting.

James Croxton:
Simultaneously, on June 30, Governor Kate Brown banned the use of tear gas except for when “unlawful assemblies” are declared a riot.

MG Belka:
This did nothing to prevent the use of chemical munitions.

Inmates at the Lane County Jail launched a hunger strike over unsafe conditions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic on July 1, which would last until mid-September. Tear gas was deployed and one person was arrested during a demonstration that night after protesters set off fireworks and attempted to burn an American flag on the property. 

On July 15, a small group once again vandalized EPD headquarters, only to be swiftly arrested and thrown in the Lane County Jail. Those arrested that night later reported mistreatment by arresting officers and brutal conditions at the jail.

While Eugene had yet to see the sort of nightly street battles that had begun to grow commonplace in Portland, it seemed almost inevitable that a similar situation would soon erupt in Eugene. After the riots in May, EPD and protest groups had managed to work out a sort of uneasy peace, but with demonstrations occuring on a near daily basis, it was only a matter of time before the police would start pushing back. The arrests of July 15 suggested that their patience was wearing thin.

There were also early signs that the city’s protest movement was beginning to fracture along ideological lines. Groups like Black Unity were holding protests and marches on the daily, but the more radical members of the city’s activist scene were growing weary of these “marches to nowhere.” 

There were complaints about BU’s seeming willingness to work with police and, of course, the murmurings of counter-revolutionary activity growing inside and outside the city. Minor confrontations with right-wing MAGA-types during BLM marches signaled a growing reaction against the movement for Black lives in Eugene.

By the end of July, the unrest in the Northwest had reached a fever pitch. Law enforcement agents with the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals essentially invaded Portland, causing widespread outcry and leading groups to call for a nationwide day of action on July 25 in solidarity with the embattled city. 

And Eugene answered the call.

James Croxton:
July 25 started out, seemingly, like any of the other peaceful protests by Black Unity that started at the Federal Courthouse. Beginning at 8 p.m., Eugene’s “Wall of Moms,” a smaller version of Portland’s, showed up along with an approximate 400 people.

A little over 20 minutes into the rally, 50-or-so MAGA-loving counter-protesters marched across the street and confronted the large crowd.

Holding homemade shields emblazoned with “Stop The Division,” “We All Matter,” “We Stand Strong,” and “We Stand Stronger,” in red, white, and blue lettering, the counter-protesters antagonized and raised tensions. A little later, a gun was fired, and, when the counter-protesters began to leave the rally alone, a man driving a pickup truck stopped and drew his weapon to which someone in the protest drew theirs in response.

MG Belka:
After I heard the gunshot and tasted mace in the air, I became certain someone was going to die. As people scuffled throughout the crowd, I watched a man with poor trigger discipline hold a combat shotgun by his side and scream obscenities at antifascists. 

The entire confrontation lasted maybe half an hour, but it felt like an eternity. 

James Croxton:
Now incensed, the protesters not only pushed out the MAGA-folk, but marched onwards to the Lane County Jail. There, some sort of smoke grenades were detonated in the front of the building before moving on towards downtown.

After setting trash cans on fire along the way, and smashing-up Wells Fargo and Whole Foods, the crowd marched onward and targeted Elk Horn Brewery. Shortly thereafter, EPD appeared with several vehicles of riot gear-clad officers not far behind. Eight people were arrested, including a minor who was released shortly after

With no place left to go, the protesters marched into a residential neighborhood and were, almost immediately after leaving the main road, were tear gassed — however, mostly members of the press were hit.

From that point, the crowd dissipated into smaller groups and then into nothing.

The next day, Black Unity and Eugene’s protest crowd went back out to the Federal Courthouse, but this time in explicit “response to being tear gassed last night,” one protester said.

A number of counter-protesters soon showed up and instigated a few incidents but the crowd pressed onwards to the jail. Once there, the situation went awry when protesters began confronting a man, self-identifying as “press” with a sticker on his WWII-style helmet and a revolver holstered to his waist

Notably, DSM’s Janusz Malo had pointed him out to me earlier at the Federal Courthouse as “super sus.”

He turned out to be right when, after having been called-out by countless protesters and getting his phone swatted away, the man pulled-out his firearm and leveled it at peoples heads. He was subsequently chased out of the area and arrested by EPD.

Undeterred by what had happened, the crowd pressed forward towards the train tracks behind the jail. Before they arrived, a line of riot cops formed a line with reinforcements in SUVs behind them.

After a standoff, EPD grew impatient and began to shine a blindingly bright light towards the crowd, at one point using a strobe feature which, in fact, induced a seizure for one protester. By the time EPD acknowledged the medical emergency and offered help, protest medics had taken them away. 

After some time, BU leadership was able to walk up and speak with a commanding officer. With people in the crowd disgruntled, someone came up and said “this is looking bad for us, we need to go,” so, they did. Arriving back at the federal courthouse just before 2 a.m., everybody went home. 

MG Belka:
The events of that weekend left the city reeling. It was far from the most destructive night Eugene had seen, but it set in motion a series of events that would eventually alter the power dynamics on Eugene’s streets. 

Most immediately, it shifted the tenor of the response to the unrest. The Mayor, Council and the Chief of Police held a press conference and condemned the property damage while all but ignoring the severe escalation and excessive force used by EPD. Clear lines were being drawn by city officials about which groups they viewed as legitimate. There was a brief mention of the fascists that had crashed the protest and fired guns into the air, but almost all of the blame was put on “a small group that was not with the larger group.” 

Though earlier events in Springfield had hinted at it, J25 was the first major instance of Lane County’s nascent militia movement acting as a parapolice force toward left-wing protesters. 

But the sudden appearance of far-right counter-protesters felt jarring at the time, and spoke to the growing divide between Eugene’s urban center and the rural communities that made up the rest of Lane County. The handmade shields, which bore similar messages in similar color schemes, revealed that there was a reactionary force now operating in Lane County – one that was more organized and prepared for unrest than anyone seemed to realize at the time. 

But that would come later. For a few days at the end of July, Eugene was back, baby!

Despite the stern condemnation from city officials regarding the events of J25, Eugene’s newest generation seemed ready to become as ungovernable as their comrades up north. Even though there were disagreements about tactics and optics among the various street protest factions, they, collectively speaking, had built some momentum by the end of July. The increasingly heavy handed response to protests by EPD had galvanized the movement and swelled its numbers. Public opinion began to turn against EPD, which generally enjoys a favorable reputation in the city, and city officials were clearly beginning to feel the heat beneath their feet.

Then, with the wind at their backs, Black Unity called for a march through Thurston to protest what most people believed to be a simulated lynching that targeted a Black familiy in the neighborhood.

And everything began to fall apart.

Thanks for reading–we wouldn’t have attempted such an expansive project if we didn’t believe that there was some merit to learning about the history of a place, both good and bad.

If you like what we do and would like to support future endeavors, please consider becoming a subscriber through Patreon. Your support means the world to us, and really helps us achieve our goal of becoming a fully independent alternative news source for Eugene, Lane County, and beyond.

Eugene Rising, Part V

From Occupy Eugene to Donald Trump in Four Short Years

This is the fifth of a seven-part series on the history of activism and protest in Eugene, Oregon. To start from the beginning, click here.

We’re doing something different with this story, because that’s what we’re all about – trying new things.

As you read through this story, you’ll notice a series of formatting choices that, at first, may appear really obnoxious. But don’t worry: this is intentional, and will help you understand the way we’re approaching it.

Here in the middle, where there’s no formatting at all, is where you’ll find the neutral narrative that we’re engaging with throughout the story. 

A savvy reader might consider this the closest approximation we, as journalists obsessed with historical documents and public records, could find to an objective truth.

When you see this toxic green color, you’ll be reading the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-in-Chief MG Belka.

And when you see this pink color that happens to match his protest helmet and nails, you’ll have the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-at-Large James Croxton.

We did this because we believe that it is important to engage with history as we uncover it, and that engaging with history means constantly critiquing it, challenging it, and–when deserved–making fun of it, too.

But we don’t want to make the mistake of passing off those critiques and analyses as objective, since so many people still seem to believe that such a thing exists, and we don’t want to mix our own biases and perspectives with the hard research that we used to put this story together.

Oh, and, Black Lives Matter.

The Otherside of America:
The Occupied 2010’s and the Movement for Black Lives

New York’s Occupy Wall Street began on Sept. 17, 2011 and gained international attention. Due to that exposure, movements in an identical vein popped-up not only around the country, but around the world — and Eugene wasn’t exempt. 

MG Belka:
Neither was Savannah, Georgia, where a 19-year-old high school dropout named Marek set up a tent in a small park alongside maybe 30 other people.

In Eugene, it began on Oct. 15 of that year at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza with a march of over 1,500 people across the Ferry Street Bridge. This was also the day that Occupy Medical began, offering medical help to the community. It would last for years. There was even a free hair-cutting service.

If one was in the Park blocks on Oct. 7, 2011, this is where one would get those free haircuts, had they wanted one. (Photographer unknown, via Wikimedia Commons)

The occupiers remained camped at the Free Speech Plaza until around Oct. 22 when it was allowed to relocate to Alton Baker Park as long as the protest continued “in a respectful and peaceful manner” after consulting with both City Manager Jon Ruiz and Chief-of-Police Pete Kerns.

MG Belka:
Big mistake. 

Of course, I wasn’t there, and I can only determine what happened based on contemporary reporting, but making the decision to move an occupying camp at the request of city and police officials had the effect of immediately invalidating the strength of the occupiers. Once they agreed to move once, they could be forced to move over and over again.

Which is exactly what happened.

After being forced to leave the park and then occupying UO, the University and Occupy Eugene agreed to relocate near the Millrace at Franklin and Onyx. However, the University only allowed them to stay until the next morning. 

By Nov. 6, OE had relocated to the Whiteaker neigborhood’s Washington-Jefferson Park. Following the death of a man from injuries sustained during a fight within the occupation and the subsequent City Council vote to terminate an camping exemption for them, OE left after six weeks on Dec. 27. Their Christmas occupation of then-councilmember George Poling’s front lawn probably didn’t help either. 

Through the end of the year and into the next, OE remained active. 

The Occupy Eugene encampment in Washington-Jefferson Park on Nov. 6, 2011. (Photographer Unknown, via Wikimedia Commons)

On March 26, 2012, approximately 30 members of OE dressed in hoodies and gathered in front of the Federal Building to call attention to the Trayvon Martin shooting. On April 2, a walk and rally for Trayvon Martin attracted over 150 people.

Later that month, members of OE and Cascadia Forest Defenders took to the trees—literally—in solidarity with worldwide protests that week over the destruction of our planet. By May 1, OE had occupied the courtyard of the old Federal Building at 7th and Pearl.

However, the City only allowed for them to stay until July 11 at 3 p.m. and, so, OE planned for only one protester to remain behind and get arrested ahead of a likely lawsuit for infringement of their First Amendment rights. 

MG Belka:
“Brave Beatrice” was the pseudonym used by Emily Semple, who would use the protest-to-politics pipeline to win a seat on the Eugene City Council in 2016.

Over the next months, members of OE occupied the front lawn of 1191 Lawrence Street, named Outpost A, which was then being foreclosed. The owner, when asked by EPD for permission to evict, allowed them to stay until it was sold. 

On Jan. 7, 2013, EPD arrested 21 people at Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza for defying an 11 p.m. curfew placed by the-County Administrator Liane Richardon in response to protests by activists with both OE and SLEEPS — Safe Legally Entitled Emergency Places to Sleep.

Municipal Court Judge Karen Stenard—who is currently still on the bench—later issued a ruling that upheld the protestors rights to hold 24-hour protests there.

By spring, the OE movement began to diversify their actions, incorporating tried-and-true local concerns about the environment to attract more protesters. On May 25, 2013, over 1,500 Eugenians—including OE—participated in the March Against Monsanto. 

When August came around, OE again occupied the Free Speech Plaza, this time protesting the potential intervention of U.S. troops in the Syrian Civil War. The SLEEPS encampment there lasted for four weeks until evicted on Sept. 4 “for cleaning,” however, after it reopened, would only be so from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

This proved to be the end of major OE occupations.

MG Belka:
It’s easy for me to look back at the Occupy movement and highlight all the ways it went wrong, all the mistakes that those activists made. But instead, it feels more prudent to share this passage from an editorial written by someone named Reid Kimball after the demise of Occupy Eugene.

“With each failure we grow stronger. We learn something new about ourselves, our community, the Eugene police, the city council, and more. 

But we won’t be able to grow unless we can accept failure, and we won’t be able to do that if we continue to attack each other for our well intentioned efforts. The story of our hopefully future triumph will include all the obstacles and adversity we faced along the way.

Each failure will enrich the tapestry of our collective experience. Let’s not knock people who have fallen down, but help them to their feet when in need. Their failure should be seen as a success to be celebrated.

If we all knock each other down, who will be left standing to help us up when we fall?”

Reid Kimball

MG Belka:
Maybe that’s true. It’s certainly a nice sentiment. But how many failures do people need to endure before they change their approach altogether?

Still, OE managed to leave a lasting impression on Eugene. Their focus on houselessness and public health initiatives for Eugene’s most vulnerable population would prove influential, and Occupy Medical’s ongoing work with the unhoused community has proven both invaluable and extremely popular among the community. 

Their success has encouraged others to follow suit and form their own mutual aid groups, which have almost certainly saved many lives over the past few years. 

These mutual aid groups and their experience of Occupy veterans would prove valuable, since the pause between the Occupy movement and Eugene’s next wave of unrest would be very brief.

But Eugene still managed to show up late.

On Nov. 12, 2015, approximately 500 people gathered at UO for a Black Lives Matter march following the police shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. 

Following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of law enforcement, approximately 300 community members took to the streets in protest on July 8, 2016.

MG Belka:
Fun fact: I was one of those 300 people. That was the first protest I ever attended as a resident of Eugene. 

I remember being immediately smitten by the sight of people taking to the streets. I remember making a friend that day. I remember feeling like I had finally found myself in a place where people gave a shit.

A couple of weeks later, over 200 people gathered at the Lane County Jail for the “Movement for Black Lives Rally” and subsequently marched to Kesey Square. 

On Oct. 26, 2016, approximately 50 people surrounded officers as they made an arrest—after deploying both a Taser and pepper spray—near the Park blocks. A protest in response to what many considered to be police brutality took place at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza the following Monday.

MG Belka:
Tensions were again on the rise in Eugene, and the city was beginning to fracture along partisan and ideological lines. There was a growing sense that Eugene’s existing power structures could not address perennial problems that led to thousands of unhoused people living on the streets, and the contentious election of 2016 showed some very clear cracks in Eugene’s image of itself.

Then, Donald Trump was elected president, and Eugene finally broke.

The Trump Administration Polarizes Eugene

The election of Donald Trump angered the people of Eugene, and they immediately made moves to let people know their feelings. Protests at his campaign rallies ahead of the election had mobilized thousands of people, and that trend continued into 2017.

After a Donald Trump rally at the Lane Events Center on May 7, 2016, protesters confronted Trump supporters and blocked a gate to prevent cars from entering or exiting the fairgrounds.

The night of the election, hundreds of students poured onto campus to protest Trump’s election, which was deemed a riot by local news outlets despite being entirely peaceful. A second protest was held on campus a few days later.

But once these initial flashes of anger subsided, consistent organized resistance against the Trump administration slowly materialized in Eugene. The Women’s March on January 20 brought some 7,000 people into the streets on a cold and rainy day in Eugene, but these protests were rarely followed by notable actions.

Look at all those pink pussy hats. Remember those? (Jan. 20, 2017, photo by David Geitgey Sierralupe, via Wikimedia Commons)

Minor scuffles between Trump supporters and left-wing protesters were making headlines in the city by the end of January 2017, but Eugene did not immediately leap to full-on unrest. Instead, the city fell into a predictable pattern of channeling most of their dissent into peaceful protest.

The people of Eugene loved to participate in those big, attention-grabbing marches. After the Parkland school shooting, thousands again filled the streets in front of the Federal Courthouse for the so-called  “March for Our Lives” protest against gun violence in schools. The annual NAACP-led Martin Luther King Jr. Day marches saw their numbers swell. By 2019, there were even more marches, like the Indigenous Peoples’ March that brought out a few dozen people on a cold and rainy day and other protests against family separations and deportations being conducted by ICE agents.

There were a few marches and rallies led by teachers’ unions as the Oregon legislature threatened to reduce school funding, too, but liberal activism in Eugene remained focused on the big picture through the first few years of the Trump administration.

MG Belka:
These big attention-grabbing protests are where I cut my teeth as a street journalist. 

The “March for Our Lives” was one of my first assignments as a student reporter, and I remember feeling awed by the sheer number of people that had poured into the streets and the emotion pouring from the gathered speakers that day. It felt good to see all those people take to the streets and make their voices heard. I felt good about being in Eugene, in a place where such demonstrations were relatively commonplace.

This photo, taken at the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018, reminds me of the good old days, when federal law enforcement officers were clearly marked and easily identifiable at protests. (MG Belka // DSM)

But, while all these events looked and felt good, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of emptiness after the marches ended with dance parties and drum circles.

That day, I remember asking a woman about her reasons for marching and what she believed could be done about gun violence in schools. I didn’t use this quote in my story, but I’ll always remember her answer.. 

“I’m a mom, and my kids are in school, and so I don’t usually have time to care about what’s happening in the world,” she told me. “But being here today makes me feel like I care about their future.”

While Eugene’s liberals were marching around and dancing in drum circles, battle lines were being drawn on the streets. 

Though Eugene had bolstered its left-wing reputation by 2016, the newly emboldened far-right and fascist elements surrounding the city began to make sporadic appearances in the city. As street battles in Portland between fascists and antifascists began to shine a spotlight on the Northwest, some of the light reached Eugene. 

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, hate crimes increased in Eugene and Lane County, including several instances of fascist vandalism. Jacob Laskey, who’d been involved in a synagogue attack and other white supremacist activities since at least 2002, once again made headlines in 2018 when he was arrested for stabbing another fascist during a fight. His family’s gun store in Cottage Grove was supposedly a base of operations for Laskey’s attempt to revive a local chapter of the white supremacist American Front organization.

The growing threat of far-right groups making incursions into Eugene led to an increased public interest in antifascist activity in the city. In 2017, antifascists exposed the owners of a marijuana business as neo-Nazi sympathizers, while another group allegedly hospitalized Springfield’s most famous white supremacist, Jimmy Marr, after a fight in Corvallis. Antifascists continued to monitor and expose local fascists throughout Trump’s first term, demonstrating that far-right activity was on the rise in the area. Many of the names they eventually exposed would go on to become notable figures in the local fascist scene.

By the summer of 2019, sporadic fights began breaking out between antifascists and groups like the Proud Boys, including one notable confrontation on an overpass spanning Interstate 5 that led to an arrest of an antifascist. 

MG Belka:
This was the scene in Eugene at the start of 2020. Tensions between left and right had been building for years, but had largely failed to boil over into serious street violence. In the meantime, liberals who were vehemently opposed to the idea of Donald Trump continued to oppose his administration’s policies in the streets but failed to transform their anger into meaningful policy change.

The left hates the right. The right hates the left. The liberals and centrists hate the left and right because they’re the ones furiously rocking the boat and making a mess of their idea of civil discourse. All three are sitting on a powder keg–a town struggling with the consequences of neoliberal economic policy with a rapidly rising cost of living and, with the rise of Donald Trump, little sign that positive change would come any time soon.

There was a whole lot of talking going on in Eugene. But when the time came, who would shut up and fight?

Thanks for reading–we wouldn’t have attempted such an expansive project if we didn’t believe that there was some merit to learning about the history of a place, both good and bad.

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Westmoreland Park Encampment Faces Eviction Notice From City

Activist coalition springs into action to halt sweep, but city continues to put pressure on camps

On Feb. 17, unhoused residents camping at Westmoreland Park faced another threat of eviction—in violation of CDC guidelines and the City of Eugene’s “Covid-19 Permitted Camp Criteria”— following the first on Feb. 5, which was postponed. 

The initial Feb. 5 “Westmoreland Camp Cleanup Warning” cites that the camp was in violation because it was within 300 ft. of a City Rest Stop. Notably, most of the residents who were given the eviction notice were outside of the 300 ft. exclusion zone. 

The 300 foot exclusion zone is marked by simple wooden stakes like this. Anything inside the perimeter is considered to violate the city’s rules on unhoused encampments. (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

The Eugene Rest Stop Pilot Program offers, according to the flyer, “a designated area within city limits where up to 20 people are allowed to sleep in tents or Conestoga Huts.” 

One is being set-up at the end of the park near 18th Ave.

Two weeks later, on Feb. 16, the City of Eugene issued a second eviction order. Instead of citing the temporary camping rules allowed due to the pandemic as they had prior, the city decided to enforce Park Rules — which prohibit camping in city parks — despite previously announcing that they wouldn’t do so. 

The next morning, the city began the sweep. That’s when Tim Ream, “a random citizen” as he called himself, stepped-in to help facilitate an agreement between a representative of the Parks and Recreation and the unhoused as Eugene police officers observed from a distance.

An officer with the Eugene Police Department speaks with activists hoping to prevent a sweep of the Westmoreland Park camp. (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

Local activists with Decriminalize Homelessness and Stop Death On The Streets, among others, then helped to move tents and belongings out of the exclusion zone while a work crew from the city cleaned up everything left behind. 

Currently, over 40 activist groups, businesses, and faith centers have formed a coalition in demanding that the “City of Eugene decriminalize homelessness and stop the sweeps.” 

Campers at Westmoreland Park, with help from local activists, clean up their campsites to hopefully avoid getting swept out of the park by the City of Eugene and Eugene police officers. (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

The coalition is currently calling for the City of Eugene to decriminalize homelessness, and:

  • “Stop the sweeps and follow CDC, OHA, and Lane County Public Health guidelines.
  • Immediately identify and establish emergency locations where unhoused residents can safely and legally shelter in place in their vehicles and tents.
  • Provide basic sanitation services to camps. 
  • Immediately cease tissue parking/vehicle citations, notices for vehicle impoundment, and other citations for violations of ‘quality of life’ laws that directly target and discriminate against unhouse people and people of color, including prohibited camping, open container, violation of park rules, and criminal trespass.
  • Increase transparency in identifying resources to address the housing crisis by publicly releasing the City’s entire line-item budget for the past five years. The public has a right to know how public money is being spent. 
  • Leverage all available resources to help create long-term access to stable and affordable housing for all.” 

While the residents at Westmoreland were able to stay another day, it is likely—based on the back-and-forth decisions this community has witnessed during this pandemic—that the city will continue to sweep camps despite health guidelines. 

Eugene Rising, Part IV

Welcome to The Anarchist Capital of the World

This is the fourth installment of a seven-part series on the history of activism and protest in Eugene, Oregon. To start from the beginning, click here.

We’re doing something different with this story, because that’s what we’re all about – trying new things.

As you read through this story, you’ll notice a series of formatting choices that, at first, may appear really obnoxious. But don’t worry: this is intentional, and will help you understand the way we’re approaching it.

Here in the middle, where there’s no formatting at all, is where you’ll find the neutral narrative that we’re engaging with throughout the story. 

A savvy reader might consider this the closest approximation we, as journalists obsessed with historical documents and public records, could find to an objective truth.

When you see this toxic green color, you’ll be reading the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-in-Chief MG Belka.

And when you see this pink color that happens to match his protest helmet and nails, you’ll have the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-at-Large James Croxton.

We did this because we believe that it is important to engage with history as we uncover it, and that engaging with history means constantly critiquing it, challenging it, and–when deserved–making fun of it, too.

But we don’t want to make the mistake of passing off those critiques and analyses as objective, since so many people still seem to believe that such a thing exists, and we don’t want to mix our own biases and perspectives with the hard research that we used to put this story together.

Now, on to the 1980s!

Will We Ever Do It Big?:
Eugene During the Reagan Years

The early 1980s in Eugene saw another downturn, as both the city and state’s economy once again collapsed, causing unemployment to hit 12%. The collapse of timber prices and manufacturing wiped out entire towns and restructured Oregon’s predominant industry for good – while also setting the stage for the next generation of activism in the Emerald City.

But first, Eugene had to survive the presidency of Ronald Reagan and another decade of reactionary politics at the local level. 

Despite the faltering economy, the city’s government was dominated by conservative, pro-business Republicans throughout the 1980s, including Jeff Miller, who coasted to victory in 1988 after promising to increase police spending by $600,000 – or $1.3 million today.

Thanks to these Reagan-aligned local leaders, much of the decade came with controversy and drastic changes in local policing.

In late 1982, the Lane Interagency Narcotics Team was disbanded after news broke that narcotics agents were stealing cocaine from evidence lockers and illegally wiretapping alleged drug dealers. Despite this, the agency returned in 1987 thanks to the War on Drugs and increased federal funding for local anti-drug task forces.

In March 1984, EPD was involved in a shootout following a botched robbery at Izzy’s Pizza, during which Agent Mark Krupar and Officer Rick Allen were both shot multiple times. The shootout–along with a tragic sniper attack at Autzen Stadium later that year and an overall increase in what the department considered violent, drug-related crimes–led EPD to upgrade from revolvers to the semi-automatic handguns used by the department today. 

And, in 1986, EPD struck a deal with 4J schools to begin placing armed police officers in Churchill and South Eugene High Schools, which later spread to all district schools. There’s no record of protests against the move, which was touted by the department and local officials as an essential step to combat drug traffic in the schools.

But as far as protesting and activism goes, Eugene remained relatively quiet for most of the 1980s. 

There were callbacks to the city’s recent revolutionary past, like when Silas Bissell—a leader of the SDS’s revolutionary offshoot, Weather Underground—was arrested by the FBI in Eugene in 1987. Seventeen years prior, he, and four others—including his since estranged wife—were charged with attempting to blow up the University of Washington’s ROTC building. At the time, he was at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list.

Clipping of an Associated Press article about Silas Bissell printed in the Salem Statesman-Journal in 1987.

There were signals of its future, like when an Animal Liberation Front cell attacked a laboratory at the University of Oregon, in Oct. 1986, freeing over 200 animals and causing over $120,000 in damages.

And there were growing movements among the migrant laborers that continued to represent the backbone of the Willamette Valley’s agricultural economy – most notably the formation of the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos de Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers Union) in 1985.

Other than that, the scandals and crimes of the Reagan administration did not seem to engender much outrage in the Emerald City beyond occasional marches against the Iran-Contra Affair, the invasion of Grenada, and the bombing of Libya. The recession of the early 1980s, much like those that had come before, seemed to take the wind out of Eugene’s sails, for the most part.

But one notorious event at the tail-end of the decade opened the door to Eugene’s radical future.

On Easter Sunday 1989, a small group of environmental activists confronted a timber crew heading up to cut a stand of trees near Breitenbush Hot Springs. The stand was the subject of a lawsuit that disputed the legality of the sale, and the logging company was attempting to cut down the old-growth trees before a judge had a chance to rule on the case.

The activists, who’d been loosely organized by Earth First!–more on them later–barricaded the road to the timber sale with logs and other debris, which successfully fended off the first wave of loggers. But the U.S. Forest Service showed up soon after with heavy equipment and took down the barricades, clearing the way to the sale. 

That’s when one activist buried himself in rocks to prevent the equipment from getting through.

Twelve people were arrested for disorderly conduct that day, but it bought the group enough time for reinforcements from Eugene and Portland to arrive. Over the next two days, environmentalists repeatedly barricaded loggers and Forest Service officials from the timber sale using non-violent methods, despite considerable opposition from law enforcement and pro-logging groups in rural Oregon. Loggers claimed that their equipment was sabotaged by Earth First! activists, while at least one logger admitted to nearly cutting a tree that was occupied by a tree-sitter.

As one might imagine, the reaction amongst Oregon timber workers to the growing forest defense movement was not exactly nuanced and civil. (Source)

Ultimately, the environmentalists lost the battle–a federal judge in Portland unsurprisingly ruled in favor of the logging company and allowed the sale to proceed–but the event became one of the earliest high-profile standoffs between the growing environmental movement, timber companies, and the State. Tactics used during the so-called “Easter Massacre” of 1989–tree-sitting, forest road barricades and court injunctions, just to name a few–would become hallmarks of Eugene’s forest defense tradition into the coming decades.

It also sparked a growing backlash among loggers and other timber-related workers toward environmental activists that would lead to decades of resentment and conflict.

And, most importantly, the standoff sparked some lifelong friendships and partnerships that would alter the course of Eugene’s history forever.

Better Anarchists Than You:
Arsonists & Forest Defenders in the “Anarchist Capital of the World.”

In the summer of 1999, Jim Torrey, the Republican mayor who had already drawn the ire of local radicals after his police department pepper sprayed tree-sitters in the genitals, declared that Eugene had become “The Anarchist Capital of the World.” 

For a time, he appeared to be right.

There are countless examples of protests, activism, and direct actions centered in and around Eugene in the ‘90s. Though local anarchists never quite escalated their actions to the level of serial bombings inside the city limits, their actions throughout the decade put Eugene on the radical map for good.

The 1990s began with rowdy protests against the Persian Gulf War. On Jan. 16, 1991, nearly 1,500 people rallied outside the Wayne Lyman Morse Federal Courthouse, where student activists dramatically placed a body-bag containing a live 10-year-old girl on the steps to represent the war’s unseen death toll. Police arrested 51 people that day, including 15 juveniles. They also arrested someone for honking their horn while driving by the protest. Later that day, someone torched the Marine Corps recruiting station on Division St.

Building on the momentum earned from the Easter Massacre in 1989 and the student-led Persian Gulf protests in 1991, countless radical groups from all over the left side of the political spectrum found strong bases of support in and around the city. Earth First! had a strong following in the city; Eugene-based activists helped build the environmental organization’s reputation for direct action by organizing all sorts of roadblocks, tree-sits, and other acts of resistance across the Oregon Cascades. 

The above video is from Tim Lewis, who documented much of the Eugene green anarchy movement in the 90s and 00s, including their excursion to Seattle for the WTO protests in ’99.

By the middle of the decade, Eugene had built a strong infrastructure of radical organizing and culture. Radical anarchists and other left-wing activists flocked to the Whiteaker, where they met at friendly outposts like the Out of the Fog coffeehouse on the edge of the neighborhood. Whiteaker-based pirate radio stations like Radio Free Cascadia broadcast the words of, among others, anarcho-primitivist godfather John Zerzan, while DIY publications like Break the Chains, Disorderly Conduct, and later Green Anarchy! circulated anarchist and abolitionist ideas throughout radical circles in the city and across the Northwest. 

MG Belka:
Out of the Fog was so anarcho-friendly that they even made a point to exclusively sell coffee grown by Zapatista rebels in the Mexican state of Chiapas. This fact is mocked in a very annoying-but-nevertheless informative Rolling Stone profile of Eugene’s anarchist community.

And in between 1995 and ‘96, after years of honing their skills, members of EF! and other affiliated groups undertook arguably the most successful forest defense in Oregon history: the Warner Creek Occupation.

For 343 days, a couple dozen environmental activists, most of them from Eugene, blockaded a remote forest road leading to a small timber sale deep in the Cascades, not far from Oakridge. The occupation, as chronicled in the documentary “Pickaxe,” included a 79-day hunger strike and the employment of all sorts of nonviolent defense tactics that the activists had practiced on far smaller scales for years. In addition to using their bodies as obstacles, the blockade featured ten-foot deep ditches cut into the road and a literal fort built of old logs.

The occupation ended when rangers finally overwhelmed the blockade with bulldozers and arrested seven people, but the occupiers had already won. The Clinton administration agreed to halt the logging of Warner Creek and thousands of acres of old-growth forest in Oregon and Washington. Nationwide public opinion, for a time, turned against the logging of public lands, especially after heavy crackdowns on similar blockades across the Pacific Northwest.

MG Belka:
As far as environmentally centered direct actions go, Warner Creek was about as well-executed as it gets. It was an action that required true grit, resilience, and–most of all–an almost religious faith among and between the co-conspirators that their cause was worthy and just. 

But the more radical members of the occupation were not content to rest on their laurels after Warner Creek. 

The successful action, which both saved a chunk of forest and embarrassed the-hell-out-of the federal government, instilled a strong sense of confidence in the young eco-activists. If a couple dozen hippies could make a stand on a remote logging road in rural Oregon, imagine what they might be capable of if they had a couple hundred people, or even a couple thousand people.

Imagine what they could do if they stopped playing defense and went on the attack.

The Earth First! occupiers at Warner Creek, 1995. (Source)

On Christmas Eve. of 1995, the Animal Liberation Front returned to Eugene, taking credit for setting three ice cream trucks on fire and signaling that the coming years would see more action than ever.

1996 proved to be a watershed year for radicals in Eugene. That year, the FBI finally arrested Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, whose manifesto would end up having a strong influence on the city’s green anarchists and future anarcho-primitivists. The rest of 1996 saw several high-profile cases of vandalism directed at the U.S. Forest Service facilities in the Oregon Cascades, including the burning of a USFS pickup truck at the Detroit Ranger Station. 

The Detroit vandalism was followed two days later by the infamous torching of the Oakridge Ranger Station, which caused over eight million dollars in damage. 

The Oakridge arson is regarded as one of the earliest major acts of sabotage undertaken by members of the Earth Liberation Front, who would remain prolific over the next decade across the United States. Eugene-based members of the group were allegedly involved in multiple arson attacks all across the Northwest, but their identities would not be known until much later.

Some early ELF graffiti allegedly done by eco-saboteurs sometime in the late 1990s. (Source)

MG Belka:
I find the ELF to be extremely fascinating, especially as it relates to our current historical moment. 

Though the ELF exists in the very recent past—with their actions occurring as late as 2008—they’ve already become mythologized among a certain subset of today’s radicals. Their activities, philosophy, and organization has proven highly influential among today’s would-be revolutionaries, especially in the Pacific Northwest. 

Much like their spiritual comrades in the Animal Liberation Front and Canada’s Earth Liberation Army, the ELF operated as autonomous cells beneath a collective banner – a clever tactical choice largely influenced by the group’s anarchist leanings. By operating as individual cells, the ELF proved difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate and even harder to track down. It’s impossible to know how many people were involved in ELF activity at any given time, but seeing as how they claimed responsibility for attacks from the Cascades to the Netherlands, it’s fairly safe to assume they numbered at least a couple thousand at peak strength, the vast majority of whom were never caught.

And they scared the hell out of people! It’s easy to forget that, in the years just before 9/11, anarchists and eco-terrorists were public enemy number one in the United States. While America was gawking at the Monica Lewinski scandal, ELF cells were burning down ski lodges in Colorado while ALF cells were freeing animals from testing facilities in Orange County. 

But it’s important to note that these groups have accounted for exactly zero deaths over the course of their existence.

Protesting the cutting of 40 large trees on June 1, 1997, to make way for the apartments and parking garages that now sit at Broadway and Lincoln St. in downtown Eugene, hundreds gathered to witness what would happen with members of Earth First! and Cascadia Forest Defenders in the trees. It was reported, too, that “while the cops outside the fence pushed back the crowd, those inside plucked the protesters out of the trees with a firetruck lift, blinding them with pepper spray.”

One activist responded by intentionally vomiting on Torrey during a City Council meeting on Aug. 6.

In Nov. 1998, a handful of self-declared anarchists trashed the inside of a Nike store in Eugene, causing minor damage but attracting a lot of media attention. And in May 1999, the ALF took credit for an arson at Childer’s Meat Co. on Hwy 99 that caused 150,000 dollars in damages.

A few months before the chaotic protests at the World Trade Organization summit–or otherwise known as the infamous “Battle of Seattle”–Eugene’s bustling anarchist movement clashed regularly with local cops in the streets of downtown. During one anti-globalization protest on June 18, hundreds of people showed up and smashed VCRs and computers in the street. After a few hours, EPD confronted the crowd at Washington-Jefferson Park and shot tear gas canisters at them. 

James Croxton:
Ahhh. I can smell it.

Twenty-one people were arrested in connection with the protest, including Rob “Los Ricos” Thaxton, who was hit with riot charges as well with 2nd degree assault, 1st degree attempted assault, and even an attempted murder charge – all for allegedly striking an EPD officer on the shoulder with a rock. 

In the aftermath of the Battle of Seattle, Eugene was firmly in the national spotlight as a hotbed of anarchist activity. Seattle’s Chief of Police, Norm Stamper, blamed “Eugene anarchists” for the chaos in his resignation speech, and big-name journalists continued to descend on the city for stories of unrest and rebellion.

At the dawn of Y2K, it seemed like nothing would quiet Eugene’s anarchists. On April 24, 2000, more than 100 people gathered in front of the Lane County Jail to protest and hold a vigil for Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal after he’d been convicted of killing a police officer. EPD responded in what witnesses described as “robo-gear,” fired rubber bullets at someone, and arrested eight people in total.

Jeff Luers cir. 2009 (Source)

On June 16, 2000, two local eco-anarchists—Jeff “Free” Luers” and Craig “Critter” Marshall”—torched three SUVs at the Romania Chevrolet dealership on Franklin Boulevard in protest of an overly gas-dependent culture. They, followed by EPD, were eventually arrested by the Springfield Police Department after being pulled-over for a broken headlight. 

MG Belka:
Never ever ever ever ever ever do something illegal without first making sure that your car’s lights aren’t broken!

James Croxton:
That being said, since moving here, I have never seen so many cars with broken headlights. 

Judge Lyle Velure sentenced Luers, who’d become a sort of martyr for the cause, to over 22 years in Oregon State Penitentiary. He was later released in late 2009 after being incarcerated for over nine years. About him, an article said he “recalls being smitten by the natural beauty of Oregon, including old growth forests; the friendliness of people in Eugene; and the willingness of activists to protest.”

In September of that year, arsonists set fire to EPD’s West University Public Safety Station. And in April of 2001, another arson attack–apparently inspired by Luers and Marshall’s action–claimed an additional one million dollars in damages.

Luers and Marshall’s arrests and subsequent incarceration became a rallying cry for the local eco-anarchists, but it also signaled the beginning of the end of Eugene’s time in the radical limelight. Infighting and bad-jacketing sowed mistrust in local anarchists while the media attention on the city put pressure on local, state, and federal law enforcement to quell the unrest.

And quell they did. The early to mid-2000s, with 9/11 having given the federal government new tools to crush terrorism at home and abroad, saw a massive crackdown of the green anarchy movement by law enforcement. Between 2004 and 2006, 18 people were arrested in connection with ELF and ALF attacks across the country as part of the FBI’s “Operation Backfire.” 

Among those of those arrested–and later charged with terrorism under the still-new Patriot Act–was Daniel McGowan, a Eugene-based ELF conspirator whose story was explored in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “If A Tree Falls.” 

MG Belka:
The film is essential viewing for anyone interested in how effectively the federal government can crush a left-wing movement when they feel like doing so – and essential for understanding what happens when even one person in your circle decides to cooperate with the Feds.

With their most radical members either incarcerated or on the run, Eugene’s anarchists were effectively knee-capped. The movement was not completely run out of town, but the crackdown forced would-be revolutionaries to temper their public activities. The mutual aid and street organizations formed during the period continued to operate, but it would be a long time before anarchists in the city would go on the offensive again. 

These are the “good old days” that many local agitators look to for inspiration as this latest wave of civil unrest dances around Eugene. Many of the major players from the ‘90s are still around – I’ve met at least a couple of them. You can still listen to John Zerzan’s radio show on KWVA. There are still forest defense groups opposing logging operations and other environmental hazards. 

But between yet another economic collapse, the rise of neoliberalism on the back of the election of Barack Obama, and the challenges presented by the technological boom, Eugene’s reputation as the Anarchist Capital of the World soon become more mythos than history.

James Croxton:
Then, a decade later, Occupy happened.

Thanks for reading–we wouldn’t have attempted such an expansive project if we didn’t believe that there was some merit to learning about the history of a place, both good and bad.

If you like what we do and would like to support future endeavors, please consider becoming a subscriber through
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I Hope He Didn’t Die Last Night

It’s noon on Saturday in Portland, and there’s about 8 inches of snow on the ground. In the next two days, I expect consistent, sub-freezing temperatures.

I can’t help but feel intense sorrow for my neighbors down the street. They can’t afford heating, or jackets, or snowshoes. From what I’ve learned, they and their kin have lived in different spots around Portland for the last 50 years or so. 

The city doesn’t like too many of them in the same place, or for too long. Something about making the city look cleaner, or safer? I don’t think anyone is really sure. No one wants to talk about it. Sometimes, my neighbors even find themselves in a good situation, and are still forced to move and lose their few possessions.

The community has a lot of initiatives, fundraisers, and mutual aid programs to support my neighbors down the street, I guess. Help them financially, keep them warm, you know? But I haven’t quite gotten the chance to be a part of anything. I’ve only really been around for a month.

I mean, there’s still a crazy virus floating around, too. At least, that’s what everyone is obsessing over. It’s not like I’d be welcomed up my neighbor’s patio with some warm, waterproof shoes, or insulated pants, or a parka. Well, maybe they’d appreciate the gesture. Maybe they’d appreciate some non-threatening human contact.

Now that I think of it, I can’t even afford new warm clothes for myself right now. I’ve been out of a job since September, and am doing the best I can to make ends meet and set myself up for success. I’m probably not even the right person to help my neighbors. I wasn’t responsible for their situation. Was I?

Shouldn’t I still be able to extend a helping hand though? After all, I definitely have the space in my house to keep some of my neighbors warm. A warm place to sleep is certainly not asking too much. Our heater has been running non-stop for a week.

If I’m being honest, I don’t know how any of my neighbors down the street are doing. I haven’t talked to any of them for a week. I haven’t even gotten a chance to wave at my neighbor who usually hangs out on the corner. I always love how he jumps when I offer him an apple.

I hope he didn’t die last night.

Memory Care Workers Go On Strike

Updated: 2/21/21

Workers at The Rawlin, a long-term memory care facility in Springfield, officially went on strike Tuesday after several weeks of demanding recognition for their union.

The strike went into effect at 10 a.m., with Rawlin workers and their allies in the local branch of Service Employees International Union forming a picket line outside the facility near RiverBend hospital. They plan on maintaining the picket line from 5 a.m to 6 p.m. every day until their demands are met.

Workers are striking due to considerable staffing and training failures that put both workers and the residents at the care facility at risk. Low wages–one worker self-reported making just $12.40 per hour–and long hours have led to extreme staff turnover at the facility. New hires are then pushed into working with patients with as little as one week of training.

As a result, the conditions for residents at The Rawlin have deteriorated. In the nine weeks prior to the strike, 23 residents have died – six of them due to COVID-19-related causes. And while the pandemic is not the chief cause for deaths at the facility, the strikers pointed out that Onelife Investments, the Rawlin’s parent company, had received over $260,000 in COVID relief loans and payments but failed to increase protective measures at the facility.

Still, workers and activists were quick to note that the problems at the Rawlin are not new.

“People wanna blame COVID, but the fact is that conditions here have been awful for years,” said a picketer named Daniel, who declined to give his last name. “Workers have been getting paid almost nothing for hard, difficult work. They have to care for people who have no idea where they are, or who they are, people who are dying, and they get paid barely over minimum wage.”

When asked how long he thought the strike might go on, Daniel said “I’ll be here until tomorrow afternoon, but the union will be here until we win.” 

The strikers specifically called out Zach Falk, the founder of Onelife Investments, who many of the workers blame for the rapidly worsening conditions. 

In the weeks ahead of the strike, workers at the Rawlin reported increased attempts to crack down on labor organizing at the facility. According to the union, management at the Rawlin threatened to fire workers for their organizing efforts and cut the hours of workers supporting the union. They also reported that a “union-buster” was hired to hold anti-union “training” during working hours.

Andrew Kung, one of the SEIU members that joined the strike at The Rawlin (John Adair // Double Sided Media)

Roughly 85% of the staff at The Rawlin joined the union. Strikers reported that temporary workers–“scabs”–were being hired to staff the facility during the strike.

In addition to The Rawlin, Onelife currently manages at least five senior-living properties around the state.

Later that week, on Wednesday, workers brought on local officials and other luminaries to advocate for the striking workers and their right to unionize.

Outside advocates for the Rawlin included Springfield City Councilor Leonard Stoehr, who joined the picket line on the very first day of the strike, and as well as County Commissioner Laurie Trieger and State Representative Marty Wilde.

Springfield City Councilor Leonard Stoehr, a longtime union man and organizer with the Teamsters. (Janusz Malo // Double Sided Media)
Lane County Commissioner Laurie Trieger delivers a prepared statement to the striking workers at The Rawlin. (Janusz Malo // Double Sided Media)

Oregon State Rep. Marty Wilde speaks at the Rawlin picket line in Springfield.

There was also plenty of support from people whose family members are housed in the Rawlin. Despite the disruption stemming from the strike, family members tearfully supported the striking workers looking to improve conditions for themselves and the residents at the Rawlin.


There was even a statement from Nancy Gallagher, the rector of St. John the Devine Episcopal Church in Springfield.


These statements were followed by a candlelit vigil for the 29 residents that have died at the Rawlin in recent weeks. James Croxton wrote that story, which can be found here.

Eugene Rising, Part III

Our Serial Bombers are Locally-Sourced and Always Organic

This is the third of a seven-part series on the history of activism and protest in Eugene, Oregon. To start from the beginning, click here.

We’re doing something different with this story, because that’s what we’re all about – trying new things.

As you read through this story, you’ll notice a series of formatting choices that, at first, may appear really obnoxious. But don’t worry: this is intentional, and will help you understand the way we’re approaching it.

Here in the middle, where there’s no formatting at all, is where you’ll find the neutral narrative that we’re engaging with throughout the story. 

A savvy reader might consider this the closest approximation we, as journalists obsessed with historical documents and public records, could find to an objective truth.

When you see this toxic green color, you’ll be reading the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-in-Chief MG Belka.

And when you see this pink color that happens to match his protest helmet and nails, you’ll have the thoughts, musings, and analysis by Editor-at-Large James Croxton.

We did this because we believe that it is important to engage with history as we uncover it, and that engaging with history means constantly critiquing it, challenging it, and–when deserved–making fun of it, too.

But we don’t want to make the mistake of passing off those critiques and analyses as objective, since so many people still seem to believe that such a thing exists, and we don’t want to mix our own biases and perspectives with the hard research that we used to put this story together.

Anyways, here’s a Bob Dylan reference!

You Don’t Need A Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows:
Serial Bombings, Campus Radicals, and the Birth of Modern Eugene

By the latter half of the 1960’s, Eugene became regarded as a city on the forefront of anti-war and anti-establishment protests across the United States, largely thanks to high-profile organizing and actions by students at the University of Oregon.

Though anti-war protests were far from rare on college campuses during the 1960s, the UO was unique in that students were almost singularly focused on activism against the American imperialism and the Vietnam War. While it was far from invisible on the UO campus, the Black liberation and civil rights movements were relatively small relative to other colleges during the 1960s. Eugene’s Black Panther Party, for example, had no more than 30 members at its peak.

A similar story exists with the Chicanx movement at UO, which began as a student union in 1964 before uniting with the nationwide Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA) organization in 1969. There was also a chapter of the Brown Berets in Eugene that acted as a sort of community defense organization.

The University was also home to one of the oldest indigenous student groups on the West Coast, which was a major force in the restoration of tribal sovereignty among the indigenous peoples of Oregon. By 1968, the area also had offshoots of the nascent American Indian Movement, though there’s no record of indigenous-centered protests in or around Eugene until the late 1970s.

MG Belka:
I’m not saying that these movements were minor or didn’t have an impact on activism in Eugene. I’m just saying that the people who wrote the history of this town rarely seemed to focus their attention on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous movements until very recently. These marginalized groups are rarely painted at the forefront of Eugene’s activist history.

Take three guesses as to why.

The earliest anti-war demonstrations at UO came in late 1964 and early 1965, and were almost immediately countered by right-wing student groups calling themselves the “Young Americans for Freedom” and the “Bi-Partisan Student Committee for the War.” The right-wing groups jeered and heckled anti-war protesters, and anti-war protesters often jeered and heckled right back, but the protests remained almost completely peaceful. Teach-ins were held across campus, where many students got their first taste of the radical ideas that would influence later actions in Eugene.

University of Oregon students gathered for a protest in front of the the Erb Memorial Union in 1966. (Source, via UO)

Around the same time, a UO student group calling themselves the “Students for Socialist Action” voted to unite with the Students for a Democratic Society, which had formed in 1960 at the University of Michigan and rapidly expanded nationwide. The group was regarded as one of the chief organizations of the so-called New Left in the U.S.

The UO chapter of the SDS would not have an immediate impact, at least not in an official manner. Instead, the group spent four years quietly organizing on campus and watching the unrest of the radical sixties unfold across the rest of the county.

But that did not mean that Eugene stayed quiet through the decade. On the contrary, the city the nation’s ongoing involvement in Vietnam led to a series of dramatic attacks on local military installations, including the 1967 bombings of both the Eugene Naval & Marine Corps Reserve Training Center and Air Force ROTC buildings, the Sept. 1968 arson at the Eugene Armory, and a rash of targeted bombings throughout the city in May 1969

Even though the FBI got involved, the perpetrators of these actions were never caught.

James Croxton:
Interestingly, much of Eugene’s early protest history is only publicly available from the Eugene Police Department’s website

MG Belka:
What’s interesting to me is not that Eugene endured nearly two years of bombings in the 1960s, but that it’s a seemingly forgotten part of the city’s recent history. Outside of a few bullet points from the city’s official history and a couple of short write-ups in the local papers, there’s little information to be found these actions, which most people would consider acts of domestic terrorism.

Imagine if a Volkswagen bus started driving around Eugene while its passengers threw bundles of dynamite at churches, banks, and university buildings in 2021. Not only would that make national headlines and lead to a million articles about the problems posed by divisive rhetoric in American politics, but it would cause the locals to lose their fucking minds, right? 

I suspect it’s because the bombers were never caught. Official historians rarely spend their energies on stories that don’t have neat endings or named antagonists. 

In 1969, Eugene’s Black Panthers had an armed standoff with EPD after a pair of cops attempted to illegally enter the BPP’s headquarters. The well-armed Black Panthers refused, and the police responded by issuing arrest warrants for several BPP members. Once word got out that the police and Panthers were getting ready for a fight, white students and community members rallied to defend the group. According to Eugene-based Black Panther Jaja Anderson’s account of the incident, there were even armed white men taking up sniper positions around the Black Panther’s headquarters.

The situation was defused after a few hours, but it was emblematic of the atmosphere in Eugene at the time.

These are the typed notes recounting the meeting between UO student and local Black Panther leader Howard Anderson and UO journalism professor Ken Metzler. (Source)

And it was amid this tension and anxiety in the city of Eugene that the SDS took the opportunity to ramp up their actions at the University of Oregon.

By 1968, the SDS had begun holding much larger protests on campus and in downtown Eugene, which led to at least one student being attacked by what historian Gary Barnum called “an irate citizen.” A protest against the use of napalm saw the SDS burn a baby doll in front of the EMU and heckle a visiting executive from DOW Chemical about the company’s role in the war.

After President Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election and would instead attempt to negotiate a peace with North Vietnam, actions quieted down on campus. But once the chaotic 1968 election year ended with the rise of Richard Nixon, and the continuation of the war, student protests led by the SDS at UO reached their peak.

They began by organizing a torch-lit march to newly appointed university president Robert Clark’s house in the fall of 1969, demanding that he bar the Army ROTC from being present on campus. Clark managed to open a dialogue with the students, but the action spooked the administration, who began revising their policies regarding student activism a few weeks later.

The newly re-written policies encouraged students to participate in what the university determined to be “non-violent protests” while also clearly establishing that any perceived threat to UO property or university records would trigger a strong response from EPD.

It wasn’t long before students put those policies to the test.

Protesters walked up to a ROTC campus recruitment event on Jan. 6, 1970 and threw animal blood over the recruiters and their table. The protesters later identified themselves to the Oregon Daily Emerald as members of a “Women’s Militia” and stated that they were protesting the Vietnam War and the ongoing “militarization” of the United States.

On Jan. 9, the SDS sent a letter to President Clark asking that the university cancel classes on Jan. 15 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. They also requested his presence at what was deemed a “People’s Trial,” scheduled for Jan. 11, where activists would put the university on trial for what they called “complicity in U.S. imperialism.”

President Clark publicly declined the invitation and the University declined to cancel classes, so the students kept up the pressure. 

On Jan. 14, the SDS disrupted a regular faculty meeting by heckling and jeering the assembled professors. The following week, 25 students vandalized the ROTC offices, scattering papers and spray-painting walls before fleeing ahead of the arrival of EPD. A small group also heckled ROTC recruiters on Jan. 31 before again being chased away by EPD officers.

The students occasionally expanded their scope. On Feb. 3, around 40 students disrupted open interviews being held on campus by the timber company Weyerhaeuser in protest of the company’s environmental practices. This time, the university cracked down, charging 18 students with violations of the Student Conduct Code – though only two were found guilty.

On Feb. 15, the ROTC office in Esslinger Hall was set ablaze — burning many students’ draft documents and causing upwards of 250,000 dollars in damages. Then, a month later, on March 8, nearly 200 students, led by the SDS, stormed McArthur Court during a Chicago concert

MG Belka:
I refuse to let that paragraph go by without highlighting that students in Eugene once rioted for the band Chicago.

In the summer of 2020, I watched a dozen people form a makeshift committee to decide whether to turn right or left on Hilyard St. Fifty years earlier, 200 UO students stormed McArthur Court so they could hear “25 or 6 to 4” for free.

James has a lot of vinyl, and it only makes sense that he had a copy of Chicago II ready to go after learning this fact. (James Croxton // DSM)

James Croxton:
Hell yes they did.

MG Belka:
I’m trying to think of a parallel to our current times. What artist would today’s radical UO students storm McArthur Court to see for free? The easy answer would be the Grateful Dead–or whatever zombified version of the Dead is touring now–but that seems too obvious. 

James Croxton:
I honestly don’t know. However, in 2007, Lil’ Wayne, Fat Joe, Sean Kingston, Charlie Murphy, and Medium Troy performed there. So, that’s something? I, mean, Bob Dylan played there, too,  a couple of years later—the last concert at the venue according to sources—but I don’t see modern-day university students ever feeling the urge to storm… a Bob Dylan show.  

MG Belka:
I do.

The near-weekly disruption of campus life by the SDS began to wear down the patience of administrators on campus, who found threatening radical students with conduct code violations did almost nothing to stop their activities. President Clark reportedly had to keep EPD officers on standby anytime the SDS had a planned protest, which further raised tensions between students and administration.

All this unrest reached a climax in April 1970. After UO faculty narrowly voted in favor of keeping the ROTC on campus on April 15, students once again stormed the ROTC offices and wrecked the place – though they failed to light the building on fire this time. This protest marked the first time EPD reportedly used tear gas to disperse protesters.

MG Belka:
And it sure as shit wouldn’t be the last time.

A week later, on April 22, hundreds of students occupied Johnson Hall, the university’s administration building. Though the group was told they could occupy the lobby so long they continued to be peaceful, the university called in the big guns after students ransacked administrative offices. EPD arrived on April 24, arrested over 60 people, and then immediately ceded authority to the National Guard, who proceeded to deploy tear-gas against protesters outside the building.

The 1970 Johnson Hall occupation, hours before the National Guard would deploy tear gas on the gathered students. (Source, via UO)

This was a major escalation and eventually forced students to abandon the sit-in, but not before 2000 students gathered outside Emerald Hall on the night of the 24th to protest the incident.

The 1970 school year ended with one final action. On April 26, students barricaded both ends of 13th Ave. and renamed it “The People’s Street” in protest of the dangers that motor vehicle traffic presented to students on campus. It was opened back up three days later on the condition that the city hold a vote to permanently close the street to traffic, which they did later that year.

But that would be the last major student action on campus that school year, and for several years after. That summer, the SDS effectively imploded after a major schism between its liberal and radical wings at the group’s national convention, which eventually led to the formation of revolutionary organizations like the Weather Underground

On May 4, 1970, National Guardsmen killed four students and wounded nine others during a peaceful protest against the expansion of the Vietnam War at Kent State University. While student protests erupted on campuses nationwide, the UO decided to cancel classes for several days, hoping to avoid similar unrest and bloodshed in Eugene. 

It mostly worked. The protests died down, and the state higher education board prepared for the coming school year by once again revising the student conduct code to better counter potential protests from a thoroughly radicalized student body.

According to Zach Bigalke, a student researcher at UO, “the amendments explicitly prohibited obstruction or disruption of teaching; interference with freedom of movement; possession or use of dangerous weapons; physical abuse or the threat of physical abuse toward any other person; malicious damage, misuse, or theft of institutional property; refusal of official orders to leave premises; traffic in illegal drugs; and inciting others to engage in proscribed conduct.”

The new rules, which still exist in the current Student Conduct Code, successfully curtailed direct actions at the UO, as well as protests in general on campus. But the half-decade of unrest in Eugene would go out with an exclamation point.

On Oct. 2, 1970, as if to signal the official end of the era of peace and love, one final bomb went off in the basement of Prince Lucien Campbell Hall. No one was hurt, and history moved on without anyone really noticing.

MG Belka:
But hey, if nothing else, Eugene got the White Bird Clinic out of the deal.

James Croxton:
In very meta fashion, Eugene was not only the location for real anti-war protests, but for fictional ones, too — more specifically at Lane Community College. 

Filmed in 1969, “Getting Straight” is directed by Richard Bush, led by Elliot Gould—think Monica and Ross Gellers’ dad, Jack, in “Friends”—and is one of Harrison Ford’s earliest roles. 

About a graduate student turned anti-Vietnam War activist, Gould’s character returns to the school to become a teacher. Still under construction, LCC was an optimal location to film fictional anti-war protests on a college campus. 

MG Belka:
This would be the last time that anyone considered LCC to be in an optimal location.

Meet Les Anderson:
Eugene’s Mayor of the Future

Though it was nowhere near prepared for mass student movements, civil unrest, and serial bombings, Eugene was gradually embracing its new identity as a hub for counter-culture. The icons that would leave their mark on the city were only just appearing on the scene. The hippies that embody Eugene’s identity were only just beginning to settle in the Whiteaker neighborhood. Nike was still called Blue Ribbon Sports—and had yet to perfect the art of graphic design—and Steve Prefontaine had yet to capture the hearts and minds of the track-and-field faithful. Kesey Square was still Broadway Plaza and the Oregon Country Fair was only in its second year. 

As change swept through Eugene, a charismatic and popular mayor named Les Anderson seemed to know exactly how to soothe his city’s restlessness. 

Anderson, a Republican elected in 1968—the same year as President Richard Nixon—was a business major and then instructor at UO, the chair of the Department of Finance, and made his wealth in both real estate and timber with Random Lengths, a publication about the industry.

Les Anderson accepting an award at the University of Oregon cir. 1997. (Source)

As mayor, Anderson was a champion for business. His family had been in and around Eugene since early in its history, and he built close relationships with the city’s up-and-comers through his position on the board of the University of Oregon Foundation

Among other things, Anderson was the first public official to tie Eugene to track-and-field culture. Anderson himself had a passion for jogging and helped popularize the activity in Eugene, while his son, Jon, was coached by Nike co-founder and UO legend Bill Bowerman. Jon became a member of the famous 1972 Olympic track and field team and won the 1973 Boston Marathon

MG Belka:
And here begins the earnest transformation of Eugene from hard-scrabble working class town to “Ideal Home and Recreation Area.”

Following his passing, the former mayor was recognized for his calm demeanor during the anti-war protests he witnessed as mayor. During his tenure, he was reported to have been “relentlessly optimistic” and calm — especially during the anti-war protests. 

When students burst into City Council with North Vietnamase Flags and surrounded the podium, he halted proceedings, de-escalated the situation and later resumed the session. When students barricaded 13th Ave., Anderson again went and spoke with them, peacefully resolving the standoff with no arrests. 

MG Belka:
Most of what we learned of Mayor Anderson while researching this story came from a glowing obituary in the Register-Guard. In truth, very few people alive and in Eugene at this moment know much of anything about Les Anderson. 

I get the sense that Les Anderson had “figured out” Eugene and how to tame a city that had grown rather unruly. His successors each faced their own civil crises, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that Anderson offered plenty of advice on how to maintain control of a city that easily got drunk off its own radicalism. 

Anderson, as far as I can tell, was the first local mayor to figure out that a progressive city will tolerate a whole lot of repression–so long as it’s done respectfully. Oregonians, many of whom are a little too laid-back as it is, love to boast of civility and calm despite their state’s often shocking history of violence. Their most successful leaders, in business and in politics, sport a sort of rugged kindness born of their guilty memories. They say they abhor violence because they know, deep in their bones, what it means to be violent. 

But they’re not afraid of it, either.

Post-mayorship, Anderson mentored succeeding mayors Gus Keller, Ruth Bascom, and–perhaps most notably–Jim Torrey. 

It Must Be Love:
Queer Liberation and Atomic Anxiety

Though the state of Oregon’s history of racist legislation is relatively well-documented, the state has also tried to paper-over its terrible record on LGBTQ issues. Oregon has put more anti-gay measures on their ballots than any other state, and, for a time, used a vaguely worded law to sterilize “sexual perverts” and “moral degenerates.” The original wording of the state’s sodomy law–which wasn’t amended until 1971–technically banned all sexual acts other than married heterosexuals having sex in the missionary position.

The battle for LGBTQ rights in the state was mostly centered in Portland, but Eugene had its own key role to play in the struggle – and sometimes took the lead, too.

Inspired by the Stonewall riots, the Gay People’s Alliance was founded by UO students in 1969. Later called the Gay and Lesbian Alliance and currently called the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Ally Alliance, the GPA was the first student organization of its kind on the West Coast and immediately became a force in fighting for gay rights on campus and in the city. One of its early leaders was Terry Bean, who would go on to become a co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign and a prominent political lobbyist. 

Throughout the 1970s, the GPA and other local gay rights groups, with help from the ACLU, successfully used protest and public comment to lobby the city council to prohibit housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in 1977.

University of Oregon students march in one of Eugene’s early Pride parades, then called the “Stonewall Pride Parade.” (Photographer unknown, photo via University of Oregon libraries, 1977.)

But the victory wouldn’t last long, as anti-gay activists managed to get a referendum to repeal the ordinance on the ballot in 1978. After nearly a year of door-to-door fear mongering about child molestation which was read into the city council minutes, Eugene Local Measure 51 passed with 64 percent of the vote. 

It remained perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in Eugene until 1997, when the city finally enacted an anti-discrimination law that was not challenged by bigots.

MG Belka:
By this point, I hope you’re seeing the pattern that Eugene has settled into throughout its history.

Once again, Eugene found itself in the national spotlight–this time as a hotspot in the nationwide battle over LGBTQ rights–only to see reactionary forces seize that limelight for their own ends.

Even when the city’s leaders appear to have good intentions, they immediately face pushback from reactionary groups peddling misinformation and outright lies in order to attach the heavy anchor of religious conservatism to anything remotely progressive. 

This battle, combined with similar anti-gay efforts in St. Paul, Minnesota and Wichita, Kansas, helped hone-in the strategies and talking points of the so-called “Moral Majority” that would help sweep Ronald Reagan into the presidency in 1980.

Note the towns in which these battles took place. They’re all smaller cities with robust university systems that serve as islands of “progressivism” among a red sea of conservatism.

Reactionaries love to do battle on other people’s turf.

Though the remainder of the 1970s failed to live-up to the vivid unrest that the decade began with, activism in the city did not completely die out. People in Eugene participated in protests against proposed nuclear power plants outside of Portland and the disposal of nerve gas agents in Umatilla. Both were successful, but for different reasons

Led by Portland’s Lloyd Marbet, the anti-nuclear movement was a grassroots one, which used Oregon’s petition and initiative systems to achieve their means. The movement was able to successfully scrap construction of two new nuclear plants at Pebble Springs through several ballot measures and a series of lengthy lawsuits against Portland Gas & Electric – though the existing Trojan nuclear plant north of Portland didn’t close until 1993. 

Anti-nuclear protesters frequently made the trip up to Salem to organize protests at the Oregon capitol. They often brought the whole family along for the ride, too. (Photographer unknown, via Oregon Historical Society research library, June 28, 1978)

On the other hand, the movement against nerve gas disposal was a top-down affair, mostly led by Republican Gov. Tom McCall, Oregon’s congressional delegation, and their counterparts in Washington state. Politicians weren’t the only ones, of course–more radical groups like People Against Nerve Gas promised to use their bodies to blockade trains carrying the chemicals–but most sources credit McCall’s leadership and support of a public petition for Nixon’s decision to abandon the plan in 1970.

“To say that the citizens of Okinawa… should not be subjected to the proximity of these inherently dangerous and frightening chemicals is an incredible statement when you go on to say that it is all right for the citizens of Oregon to suffer this same proximity.”

Oregon Gov. Tom McColl, 1970

MG Belka:
Instead, the chemical weapons were moved to a tiny island in the North Pacific called Johnston Atoll, known to indigenous Hawaiians as Kalama Atoll, where continuous testing and disposal of chemical weapons like Agent Orange left the island and the surrounding area horribly contaminated.

The agricultural areas around Eugene saw some activity too, as migrant farmworkers and laborers–98% of whom came from Mexico or Central America–began organizing in the late 1970s in order to win basic legal protections. The Willamette Valley Immigration Project was launched in 1977 to defend against Immigration and Naturalization Service raids seeking to deport undocumented workers, while also encouraging the development of small worker cooperatives on the farmlands outside the city.

Over a thousand Eugene 4J teachers closed out the decade in September 1979 by participating in a nationwide strike that delayed the start of the school year by over a week. That same month, Lane County employees also launched a strike that lasted for several weeks.

MG Belka:
Prior to the 1960’s, Eugene’s political power was centered among the upper classes–composed of its wealthy landowners, timber barons, and other kinds of white industrialists. But after Anderson took office in 1969, the power base–the city’s future mayors and councilors–began to shift to the middle class: small business owners, mom & pop landlords, small-time investors, and the middle managers of the world.

Gus Keller managed a hardware store and became an investment advisor. Brian Obie started multiple small businesses, ran a media company, and was a principal investor-turned-owner of the 5th Street Public Market. Jeff Miller managed insurance policies. All these men served in local government in multiple capacities.

It’s telling that these mayors, and the policies that they brought along with them, are extremely friendly to the middle-class business interests that they themselves came from and would eventually come to dominate culture in Eugene. 

Because even though it thinks of itself as a working class hub of progressive ideology, what Eugene actually represents is just how much agitation a liberal middle class can handle, or will allow, in their small city. 

Thanks for reading–we wouldn’t have attempted such an expansive project if we didn’t believe that there was some merit to learning about the history of a place, both good and bad.

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