By Taylor Griggs, Chandlor Henderson and Taylor Perse
Protesters in cities across the country, including Eugene, took to the streets on the afternoon and evening of Sept. 23 following the news that none of the Louisville Metro Police Department officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor would face charges directly related to her death.
People in Eugene showed up in solidarity for a mostly-calm protest that culminated in two people’s arrest near the University of Oregon campus.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by LMPD officers in March when they entered her home in a botched no-knock search warrant raid. Since then, she has become one of the faces of the Black Lives Matter movement, with protesters and activists across the country demanding “justice for Breonna Taylor” and that all three police officers involved in the killing be held accountable and charged with murder.
Multiple Eugene activist groups announced a protest against the Kentucky court decision Wednesday afternoon. The protest, which began at the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse, started small, but grew to about 200 people between 7 and 8 pm, marching through downtown Eugene in the rain.
The group of protesters blocked off the intersection of 8th Avenue and Mill Street in front of the federal courthouse without much resistance, continuing downtown and pausing briefly in front of the Lane County Jail before heading back to the courthouse. On the way back, protesters stopped traffic on the 6th Avenue off-ramp, where some got into verbal altercations with annoyed drivers.
Back at the federal courthouse, one of the protest leaders spoke about what local activists should plan for. Midas Well, an organizer who took charge of the event, reminded protesters of the story of Breonna Taylor and how the system failed to provide justice for her by not charging the officers involved with her death for killing her. He said the system needs to be abolished. Only one officer was indicted but it was not for killing Taylor but instead because the shots he fired passed through Taylor’s apartment walls, endangering three people in a neighboring apartment.
“We are going to be out here, demanding fucking justice, making sure Eugene and this fucking nation does not forget that Breonna Taylor deserves justice,” Well said.
Then, after some people left, an unnamed protester took a megaphone and told those who remained they can’t just march for an hour and be done, they need to be taking action in every aspect of their lives — in work, with their families and friends.
“Don’t wait for other people to lead you. Don’t wait for groups to tell you what to do. Figure that out, we all need to engage in our communities,” the speaker said.
The group said they were going to walk towards campus and headed through downtown. As they entered the campus area chanting, some protesters went over to knock on doors to get people to come join the protest. Then, turning on to Patterson Street, marchers pulled trash cans into the street, blocking the road, while continuing to knock on doors and call out onlookers.
Once the group reached UO campus via 13th Avenue and a few protesters started to spray graffiti on buildings, tagging “Abolish UOPD” and “ACAB” on the Johnson Hall pillars, the Eugene Police Department met up with them. Roughly nine EPD cars showed up to the 50 or less protesters, including a prisoner transport van.
When EPD drove to campus towards the protesters, the group decided to go back to the courthouse again. Meanwhile, Tre Stewart of Boop Troop Eugene, who had been live streaming the event, was assaulted by two counter protesters who came up to him trying to grab his camera and microphone.
Stewart dodged a kick and managed to run away. He said that EPD told them to leave, but did not arrest or go after the people who assaulted him. These people did not protest other parts of the march and had shown up to UO campus minutes before they came after Stewart.
On the night of Sept. 6, someone vandalized a car in south Eugene, writing the words “BLM CUNT” in spray paint.
The groups dispersed several minutes later. No one was witnessed being arrested during the event, but EPD sent out a press release the next day that said two people were arrested “after disorderly crowd commits crimes.” EPD also said that the group was disrupting traffic and that the presence of police vehicles is what caused the protesters to leave.
“EPD officers moved some patrol vehicles with lights on directly behind the crowd, which was on the main campus and this caused the crowd to stop the damage,” the press release said.
More protests demanding justice for Breonna Taylor are expected through the weekend in Louisville, along with other cities across the country. The Eugene protest is the first large BLM-related protest since the Oregon wildfires began Sept 7.