Early Friday morning, Occupy Eugene members staged demonstrations at the Valley River Center and two local Wal-Mart stores. One demonstrator was arrested for trespassing at the Wal-Mart store on West 11th Avenue in Eugene.
The event at Valley River Center began at around 12:30 a.m.
“I rode my bike to the occupation and then carpooled with some friends. We broke up into smaller groups and pretended to shop,” said Cooper Otte, a university junior and one of the demonstrators at the event.
The group then converged on the mall’s central atrium and began voicing their message by human-mic chants and singing Christmas carols infused with anti-corporate messages. At one a point, a bullhorn was employed, which mall officials did not seem to object to.
There was little or no individual engagement of shoppers or prevention of commerce. “The event transpired smoothly,” said Chris Looney, Business Development Manager for the mall, “Once they were done, they left the property and everything went fine.”
This Black Friday protest, called “Buy Nothing Day”, was aimed at “encouraging people to spend time with their families rather than spending money on material objects often produced in sweatshops overseas,” according to the movement’s website.
“We had a whole lot of fun and we came together as a group,” said Otte. “It’s good to do something extremely high-energy with a bunch of other people that are on your side. It was a major morale building event.”
The same cannot be said of the Wal-Mart location in West Eugene, where within hours, the protest took an ugly turn.
Around 3:00 a.m., police arrested 18-year-old Eugene native Derek James Lewis for second-degree criminal trespassing. Lewis was operating a bullhorn and wearing a mask, but Eugene police maintain that this was not the reason for his arrest.
The demonstrators reportedly refused to disperse after reasonable requests by both store managers and EPD officers to cease their disruptive activities.
The consensus among the occupiers is that the authorities were serving corporate interests and making an example of the first person they could get their hands on.