Hasheem Boudjerada was sitting with other protesters on the sidewalk on the corner of E. Broadway and Mill outside of Whole Foods Market at 10:45 pm May 31 when four Eugene police vehicles stopped across the street.
Eugene Police Department officers wearing gas masks and wielding tear gas and guns filled with pepper balls climbed out of their cars and formed a line in front of their vehicles that Sunday night. The 30 or so protesters got on their knees, and started chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot! Hands up, don’t shoot!”
Boudjerada, who identifies as half black, was live streaming from his phone. The video is on his Facebook, where he goes by “Hunter Underwood.”
“We’re being careful as we can out here,” Boudjerada says in the video. “We’re outside the curfew, not sitting in the street, no one’s breaking anything, so we’ll see how this goes.”
About 20 minutes later, he and five other protesters were in handcuffs, being arrested for “curfew order violation.” Boudjerada and others arrested while protesting on May 31 say that EPD was unfair and unnecessarily forceful during the arrests. Lauren Regan, a lawyer and director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene, says the arrests were likely to be unlawful. She denounces EPD’s actions over the weekend and wrote a letter to the city calling for charges to be dropped.
“Between these blanket curfews without justification, as well as these unprovoked attacks on the civilian population with rubber bullets and gas and weaponry, the cops have really crossed a multitude of lines,” she says. “We have called on the city of Eugene to dismiss all of the charges of people who were arrested for simply violating this quote, unquote ‘curfew.’”
EPD public information officer Melinda McLaughlin tells Eugene Weekly in an email: “It is not uncommon for charges to be dismissed after the judicial review or being reviewed by either the city prosecutor or the district attorney’s office. Arrests were made at the time based on probable cause but the Eugene Police Department understands the strain on the criminal justice system and why charges are often dismissed or plea agreements are reached.”
While the protesters were outside Whole Foods, EPD told them they were trespassing. Everybody who was in the parking lot moved onto the sidewalk. EPD then told them they were in violation of curfew and had to leave the area.
The group was outside the current curfew zone, which was the downtown area from 4th and High Street, but they started walking away from the area anyway, moving south.
At 10:57 pm, a police officer in a riot vehicle told the group that the citywide curfew would be enacted in three minutes and threatened to arrest and gas people who didn’t leave the area. The protesters kept walking away from the vehicle.
“The citywide curfew is now in effect,” the police said again at 11 pm. “You can be subject to arrest and impact and chemical munitions. Leave the area now.” They then shot pepper balls at the ground near the protesters.
Five minutes later, two police cruisers drove onto the sidewalk in front of the group, cutting them off and surrounding them, Boudjerada says. In the video, police officers on foot can be seen walking straight toward Boudjerada.
One police officer told Boudjerada: “Get on the ground. Get on the ground.”
“I’m literally going home,” Boudjerada replied. “You gave us three minutes notice to go home. How am I supposed to leave in three minutes when I live in the fucking South Hills.” Boudjerada tells EW that he was trying to get to his car to go home when he was arrested.
Police then grabbed Boudjerada, pushed him to his knees and put him in handcuffs. Police arrested Boudjerada and five other protesters and booked them overnight in the Lane County Jail.
“You told us to disperse,” Boudjerada tells officers in the video. “You enacted a curfew. I was trying to respect that.”
Regan, the lawyer, says that Boudjerada’s arrest was likely illegal because he wasn’t given the opportunity to follow police commands. Unlike on June 1, when a cell phone alert announced curfew in Eugene, there was no advance notice of the curfew on May 31. EPD announced the curfew on its Facebook page at 11:02, after it had already taken effect.
EPD’s McLaughlin tells EW in an email why EPD arrested Boudjerada and Malik McClain, a black man who was arrested with Boudjerada: “Both were observed knowingly traveling on Patterson, a public street, in violation of the emergency administrative order and curfew.” She says neither man met the criteria for the curfew exemptions put out by the city and EPD.
Erin Grady, a white woman, was also arrested with her friend when she approached the other protesters after they were already in handcuffs, trying to ask for the protesters’ names. A longtime activist, Grady works with Eugene Jail Support, an organization created Saturday to support BLM protesters who are arrested.
Grady, who was with a different group from Boudjerada and McClain until she approached them, says EPD never told her or her friend there was a curfew.
“I believe that my arrest was illegal, and that it’s possible that the arrests of these other folks were illegal, and I would like to see those charges dropped,” she says.
Grady says EPD’s arrest of these peaceful protesters was an overreaction.
“Everybody was peaceful, and there were many more police in riot gear outnumbering the six of us,” she says. At least 10 police officers can be seen in Boudjerada’s video.
Tyler Hendry, who was also arrested at the scene, says he agrees with Grady that EPD overreacted May 31, especially considering how the police stood by while businesses were looted and fires were set on May 29.
“They sat and watched for three to five hours while businesses were destroyed the first night of the riots on Friday,” he says. “They didn’t use any of the same tactics they used when they pulled up on peaceful people Sunday. If they had used that kind of stuff on Friday, they could have saved all of those businesses.”
“We got caught flat-footed Friday,” EPD Chief Chris Skinner said at a press conference on June 5. “We did not have that on any intelligence brief. We didn’t have any sense that that would be occurring.”
Addressing why EPD was more active the rest of the weekend, he said, “I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t, at some point, plan for Saturday and Sunday looking through the lens of what occurred Friday night.”
Hendry tells EW that he was tackled by two police officers. He says he was helping his Native American friend, Joshua McKnight, find his glasses. He says McKnight was lying dazed on the ground after he had been knocked over by a fleeing protester. Hendry also filmed the event.
“I’m peaceful, I’m peaceful, bro,” Hendry can be heard yelling in the video as police grab him. “I was trying to help somebody find glasses.” While Hendry is white, he is also a past victim of police brutality; a jail guard, who was a retired police sergeant, beat him while he was in handcuffs in a correctional facility in Kansas City, Kansas, in 2012.
McClain says that EPD officers were unnecessarily rough with Hendry. “The police just tackled him — just smashed him like a linebacker,” he says.
“We’re protesting. We’re not breaking anything, we’re not hurting anybody, we’re just out here trying to protest, because we’re not being heard,” he says. “This is what causes outrage. We’re not doing anything, but they’re doing this to us.”