Officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security showed up this evening at the Occupy Eugene outpost at the Federal Building at East Seventh Avenue and Pearl Street. Putting a perimeter around the area with yellow tape marked “Police Line — Do Not Cross,” officers ordered protestors to leave the space. When one protestor refused to vacate the premises, Homeland Security officers prepared to make an arrest.
In May this year, the federal General Services Administration granted Occupy Eugene a 60-day permit to set up a 24-hour-a-day protest site on the plaza. That permit expired 10 days ago. When Occupy Eugene applied to extend their permit, they were told there would be a stipulation. Mary, one of the organizers of the outpost, says,
“We were told they wouldn’t give us another permit unless we vacated the site at night time. We were only going to be permitted to be there from 7 am through 11 pm. Our constitutional rights do not disappear when it is dark.”
Mary said Occupy Eugene does not believe it needs to have a permit.
“GSA says it is necessary to have a permit to protest in front of this building. Why is it necessary? People have been here for years for all sorts of protests. They have never needed permits.”
Vicki, another protestor, said that Occupy Eugene has contacted both Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.
“We’re asking DeFazio and Wyden if this order is coming from the federal government and why. Why is the federal government shutting down local protests?”
The answer, according to the officials with the U.S. General Services Administration, is simple: Occupy Eugene no longer has permission to carry out a nonstop outpost at the federal building area. Both yesterday and today, GSA representatives went to the outpost to inform protesters they could no longer have nonstop demonstrations.
GSA official Chaun Benjamin said,
“I will ask Federal Protective Services to get involved for law enforcement activity,” if the protestors did not leave today by 3 pm.
When asked to leave this evening, all but one complied. A woman — named “brave Beatrice” by the other protestors — refused to leave.
Officers talked privately to the woman, allegedly trying to convince her to leave the space peacefully. While some protestors shouted loudly at the officers from the other side of the yellow tape, others told them to be quiet—the officers would not make an arrest, they said, unless the crowd calmed down.
Mary says that the arrest needs to be made.
“We’re looking to make a constitutional objection to the arrest. We need to take this local issue national and make our voice heard—that the federal government cannot dictate when and how people can protest their government.”
Occupy Eugene’s local attorney, Lauren Regan, has already said they plan to challenge the constitutionality of any arrests made today.
An officer for Homeland Security said the procedures were simple and matter-of-fact:
“The woman in question is failing to comply with lawful direction. It’s a Class C misdemeanor.”
Officers ended up arresting “Beatrice,” whose real name is Emily Semple. Semple is a 58-year-old Eugene resident.