Protesters Booted From Public Park

Although city parks are generally considered open to the public, Tamara Barnes of No Kill Lane County alleges that two officers from the Eugene Police Department (EPD) told her and three others to leave Alton Baker Park at Greenhill Humane Society’s Bark in the Park benefit on May 19, raising the question of whether a permit holder for an event can have protesters removed from an otherwise public area.

According to Barnes, she attended the event to hand out fliers in the parking lot and advocate a no-kill policy for Lane County. Barnes says that Greenhill employees asked her to leave the event. Barnes alleges she felt threatened and says she called EPD, who then told her to leave the park and parking lot. Barnes has been critical about Greenhill’s management of the county and city’s First Avenue Shelter in emails to Greenhill, the media and elected officials and has protested Greenhill in the past over its euthanasia policies.

Barnes alleges the police told her that the event was considered private because Greenhill had a special event permit, which allowed Greenhill to control who attended the event and who entered the event area, including the park and parking lot. “Had I known I could ask for the ordinance, I would have,” Barnes says.

According to Eugene’s 2013 Park and Open Space Rules, a special event permit is required if an event has controlled admission or is advertised as a public event, but it is unclear whether this gives the permit holder permission to refuse entry to the park.

Sasha Elliott, communications and events manager for Greenhill Humane Society, says that she acquired a special event permit for Bark in the Park. She says that more than 1,000 community members participated in the 5K run/2K walk, and pre-registration was required to attend the event. Elliott says that Barnes did not register for the event, and Barnes and three others were asked to leave, first by Greenhill staff and then by two EPD officers. Elliott says she was not present during the conversation between Barnes and the police officers. “This was a small blip in a happy and successful event,” she says.

The Greenhill webpage says the event raised more than $65,000 for homeless animals.

EPD did not provide information on the incident because the case is currently under investigation due to an associated complaint.