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Trading Eviction Notices: Fed V. Occupy

Chaun Benjamin of the GSA gives Occupy Eugene notice. Photo by Shannon Finnell.
Chaun Benjamin of the GSA gives Occupy Eugene notice. Photo by Shannon Finnell.

The federal government’s General Services Administration delivered a letter to Occupy Eugene on July 10 denying the group’s permit application to remain at the old Federal Courthouse on 7th Avenue. The group was given until 3 pm July 11 to leave the site. In response, the Occupiers handed the feds an eviction notice of their own.

“They don’t want people there 24 hours a day,” Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center said of the GSA. “We’ve lost our right to free speech between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am.” The CLDC represents Occupy Eugene as well as other free speech and environmental protesters.

Occupy Eugene has had an outpost at the old Federal Courthouse since May 1. The site has hosted sign-making parties and a medical tent. At the time, Eugene’s Homeland Security offered OE a 60-day permit, which has now expired.

The group applied for a 30-day permit for the month of July on a 24-hour basis for a “never-ending protest involving event organization, sign-making and outreach.”

The GSA turned the permit down, citing the the request for a 24-hour presence.
The GSA also writes in its letter to OE that it has an interest in maintaining an “aesthetically pleasing area.”

“Our taxes paid for the federal governmHent, so we have a right to use the property responsibly, and I don’t feel that this is an irresponsible use of the property,” Occupier Christopher Albaugh says. “We’ve maintained thoroughfare, we’ve maintained that people can still get into business, but we are active and present.” 

After the GSA’s Director of Service Centers Division Chaun Benjamin presented the Occupiers with copies of the letter, he refused to give reporters his name until leaving the Occupy outpost and making a phone call, saying he had to go through proper channels.

In response to the GSA, Occupier Peter Grotticelli handed the feds an eviction notice of their own, which regretfully informed the federal government that he and other anarchists do not recognize the 1855 secession from the coast tribes of Oregon, which would legitimate the government’s presence in “this charming square stone structure on this property.” The letter continues, “We must therefore ask that you allow our autonomous collective to occupy the structure, and that your armed agents fuck off back to Area 51.”

Regan says, “Washington, D.C., basically told Eugene that anyone that wants to exercise their First Amendment rights on the plaza, even for an hour, will need to get a permit.” She says people will face arrest for “simply exercising First Amendment rights in broad daylight.”

Several Occupiers say they are willing to risk arrest rather than leave the outpost.