By Jade Yamazaki Stewart and Taylor Perse
About 200 protesters stood at the bottom of the driveway to Mayor Lucy Vinis’ home. It was about 9:45 pm on a Tuesday night. They banged spoons against pots and pans. They beat drums. They dragged strings of empty cans across the asphalt.
“Three and a half hours at a City Council meeting last night, and the mayor didn’t listen to us,” an organizer for BIPOC Liberation Collective yelled into a megaphone. “We want to ask if Mayor Vinis can come down to talk to us.”
Vinis, wearing a pink T-shirt and olive green pants walked down her driveway to meet the protesters.
“Who do you represent?,” a protester asked Vinis through the megaphone. “The rich white fuckers who have the time to pay you?”
“I represent the whole city of Eugene,” Vinis replied.
The June 23 protest, which was organized by BIPOC Liberation Collective, started at the Eugene Waldorf School on McLean Boulevard at around 8:30 pm. Protesters marched from there uphill to the mayor’s house on 34th Avenue off of Chambers street to express their outrage for the Eugene Police Department’s new budget and the systemic racism in the Eugene city government.
The scene for the protest was set after a three-and-a-half hour public forum on June 22, in which people called on the city to cut EPD’s 2021 budget or defund police entirely, the City Council voted unanimously to pass the proposed budget without changes. Out of the 2021 city budget general fund of about $221 million, $67 million was allocated to EPD, a 10 percent increase from EPD’s 2020 budget.
The council’s 8-0 unanimous vote meant the mayor did not vote, as she only votes when a tie breaker is needed. However, she can influence the City Council and runs the meetings.
After protesters gathered in the parking lot of the school, they started marching up the steep hill up McLean Boulevard, chanting “Hey, hey. Ho, ho. EPD has got to go.”
People living in the area, stood outside of their houses and watched the protesters walk by. Some clapped in support, while others shook their heads. The southwest hills neighborhood is mainly white and affluent.
At McLean and Chambers, protesters paused to catch their breath, chanting “Stay together, stay tight.” A few cars blocked off traffic at the rear end of the group as it moved up Chambers. Protesters held signs reading “Abolish police and ICE,” “Fuck 12” and “Black Lives Matter.”
The group turned right onto 34th Avenue after the crest of the hill. “You can’t hide on your hill anymore,” a protester yelled.
Once Vinis came out of her house to meet protesters, an organizer asked her a series of yes-or-no questions.
“Do you care about our Black, Indigenous, people of color community members?” she said.
“Yes I do,” Vinis said.
“Do you care for our unhoused community members?”
“Yes I do.”
“Will you divert funding for police to fund programs that support our houseless folks in a town with the highest houseless population per capita in the nation?”
Vinis tried to explain how she would reconsider the city budget through talks with community members, but she was shouted down by the crowd.
The megaphone was then passed around for people to ask the mayor questions.
Several former mayoral candidates took the megaphone. Thomas Hiura, who received the second most votes in the May primary asked Vinis if she would consider a BIPOC person for her successor. Vinis said that she was looking for a successor, and that she welcomes people of color to step up.
Someone shouted, “That’s four years away. Step down now.”
Later, Zondie Zinkie, who was a member of the Solidarity Platform as a candidate in the mayoral race asked Vinis if she remembered her statements on several people killed by EPD including Charlie Landeros and Eli Rodrigues, and later called her to step down for a person of color. After Vinis declined, Zinke called Vinis a racist.
Spencer Smith, a leader of the Black Led Action Coalition, asked Vinis where she stood on police and prison abolition, and what protesters should do when voting, civil disobedience and even destruction of property wasn’t leading to immediate change. Vinis encouraged people to join city of Eugene task forces and to go to City Council meetings.
“You live up there in your ivory tower with all your walls, so you don’t have to see all the fucking people you’ve failed,” a protester said to Vinis. “You do realize we’re not going to stop, right?”
Protesters asked Vinis to walk a few people from the group back down to their cars to make sure they were not arrested. There were rumors that police were nearby, but Eugene Weekly didn’t see any police officers. Nobody was arrested.
While she was gone, the remaining protesters held up a piece of cardboard that said “Eugene Budget 2020” And lit it on fire, cheering as it burned.
Then, the protesters linked arms and walked away from Vinis’s house, leaving the ashes of the cardboard in her driveway.