The First SLEEPS Deployment

Throughout Fall 2012, a groups of homeless advocates came together with members of the street community and planned a non-violent direct action campaign to protest the city’s camping ban. It had become obvious that the traditional channels of negotiating with the city and relying on established service agencies was not going to be sufficient to take on the growing crisis. It was necessary to put bodies and tents into the public eye and demand that the homeless be allowed to sleep. In order to provide a stable space, two levels were established: the Strike Team and the Support base. All members of the Strike Team had to sign an agreement, which included a pledge not to use drugs or alcohol on site and to behave in a non-violent fashion. The Strike Team deployed to Wayne Morris Free Speech Plaza in December but were forced to move after then-County Administrator Liane Richardson made spurious public safety claims and closed down the free speech area. SLEEPS then relocated to a number of locations and carried out public relations campaigns. One of these actions involved protestors drawing chalk body outlines on the sidewalk of downtown Eugene, signifying those members of the homeless community who have died due to harsh conditions.

 

Meanwhile, protestors challenged the illegal closure of Wayne Morris Free Speech Plaza. On December 13th, Alley Valkyrie was arrested for trespassing. On January 7th, twenty-one free speech advocates and members of the local community were arrested in the largest act of civil disobedience in the city’s history. Eventually, both cases were deemed unconstitutional by a municipal judge. The city and the county have since decided to ignore this order. The struggle for homeless rights and free speech continues in other forms.

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