Eugene City Council Addresses Insurrection at U.S. Capitol

Following a written statement from Mayor Lucy Vinis last Friday, Eugene City Councilors also condemned the attempted coup by right-wing extremists in the U.S. Capitol during their Jan. 11 meeting. 

While the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol wasn’t one of the council’s agenda items, Councilor Claire Syrett was the first councilor to bring it up during the “Committee Reports and Items of Interest,” section of the meeting, which preceded the public forum.

“The use of violence to subvert our legitimate laws and institutions is fascism — which is the very antithesis of democracy,” Syrett said. “Those people who engaged in incitement of violence in our nation’s capital on Wednesday are not patriots. They do not support our core democratic institutions but rather seek to dismantle them in favor of pledging allegiance to a charismatic leader.”

While the riots at the Capitol were brought up repeatedly throughout the meeting, none of the councilors spoke about the local pro-Trump rally that that was declared a riot on Jan. 9 and resulted in three arrests.

Syrett also continuously emphasized that President-elect Joe Biden won in a free and fair election during her three-minute opening statement. Every councilor explicitly stated that they agreed with Syrett’s opening statement— except for one. 

While Councilor Mike Clark condemned the violence that occured at the nation’s capital, he also repeatedly attempted to draw comparisons between the domestic terrorists present on Jan. 6 and the Black Lives Matter protests that occured this summer. Clark even said that he wouldn’t sign an updated resolution condemning white supremacy unless it also condemned Black Lives Matter and Antifa. 

The City Council narrowly passed a resolution condemning white supremacy in 2019, with retiring councilor Betty Taylor as well as councillors Emily Semple and Clark voting against it.

“If we are denouncing violent action then I am all for it, which will include Antifa and those in Black Lives Matter and others who incited violence this summer. If we are willing to do that then I am in,” Clark said.

This isn’t the first time Clark has been critical of the BLM movement after calling protesters that marched to his house this summer “cowards” on Facebook.

During the public forum, Eugene citizen Steve Kiernan said that Clark’s comments were dangerously naive and that “there is no coming together with fascists and no meeting in the middle with white supremacists.”

Kiernan, who said he served five years in the Marine Corps and lost his legs in Iraq, also said that the thing about commitment is that it requires action, which he hasn’t seen from the council or police force when it comes to opposing white supremacy in the city. Kiernan, in addition to other community members, asked to see a plan on how the city plans to protect Eugene citizens from violent alt-right groups such as the Proud Boys.

This was also councilors Randy Groves (Ward 8) and Matt Keating’s (Ward 2) first Eugene City Council meeting. Groves was one of multiple councilors to acknowledge the possibility of what happened in Washington, D.C. occurring locally.

City Manager Sarah Mendary said she would ask Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner to join the City Council at their work session on Wednesday to help keep the public informed on updated information and their plan for the anticipated unrest in the coming weeks.

“I’m sensitive and hear our community when it comes to their anxiety and tension around this next week and some of the violent protesting we saw in Washington, D.C.,” Skinner said in a video statement on Jan. 13. “We’ve been through a lot this summer. A lot of protests. We counted up potentially an excess of a 100 different protests or gatherings we managed here in Eugene. And so we’re unfortunately getting pretty good at this.”

Read Skinner’s full statement here