More than 30 days have passed since Black Lives Matter marchers started flooding the streets of the Eugene-Springfield area protesting police violence and systemic racism. Nearly every day or night, protesters from the group Black Unity and other groups pick a spot in the community to march through.
Last weekend, June 26-28, events turned tumultuous as marchers came face-to-face with the Springfield Police Department and counter protesters, ending with a Children’s March in Eugene where a driver struck Black Unity member Isiah Wagoner with a car.
Events kicked off Friday evening when Black Unity marchers convened at Lively Park in Springfield’s Thurston neighborhood where they quickly encountered counter protesters, but continued marching through the streets. The group was then met by the SPD in riot gear.
After the march, the remaining marchers tried to carry on to downtown Springfield but were told by SPD they needed to disperse; police used a sound cannon at one point to deter them. After standing on the corner of Main Street the police finally backed down, with cheers erupting from protesters who marched back in front of the library to finish their protest at around 11 pm.
The peace was short lived as a group of several men on motorcycles drove next to the protest, revving their engines and drowning out the Black Unity leaders who were speaking to the group. The protesters swarmed around the street near the motorcyclists. SPD rushed back to the scene to clear people out, swinging batons and yelling. Once the protesters were back on the sidewalk the police formed a line across the street.
“This is an unlawful assembly,” they said over a loudspeaker. “If you do not immediately disperse you will be arrested.” Black Unity protesters stayed on the sidewalk, but the police arrested an unhoused person who wandered back onto the street.
Because of the chaos and frustration with the SPD following Friday’s protest, Black Unity said it would be back in Springfield the next night.
And the protesters did come back around 8 pm the next evening, marching east through downtown on Main Street, only to be blocked by the police again. Black Unity organizers spent a while trying to convince SPD to let them through, creating a compromise by having officers take off their helmets in a moment of silence.
The protesters turned around, and later apologized for standing in solidarity with the police. They marched outside of the Springfield Police Station and Municipal Jail and chanted at a line of officers for over an hour.
On Sunday, Black Unity put on a Children’s March that followed a route from Sladden Park to Skinner Butte Park. After the march ended the group was heading back when Wagoner was hit by a driver, later identified as Travis Waleri, in a white Subaru. Wagoner had been a speaker at the forefront of protests.
He was taken to the hospital where he was treated for internal bleeding in his back, according to a GoFundMe created by Black Unity Members. After the incident, the marchers followed the driver back to his home and stayed until Waleri was taken away in handcuffs by EPD. He was released several hours later. Eugene police say they are investigating and seeking video and eyewitness footage.
Black Unity marchers then joined up with the BIPOC Liberation Collective to march to the Lane County Jail and demand justice for Wagoner. So far, the GoFundMe has raised more than $12,000 dollars to go towards his medical bills and future lawyer expenses.
After taking a day off, Black Unity said on its Facebook page that it planned to be back in the streets with a strong security team, ready to disrupt.