By Taylor Perse and Jade Yamazaki Stewart
In the days leading up to the Fourth of July, Black Lives Matter protesters in Eugene returned to the streets with renewed fervor. Marchers demanded justice for one of their own, boycotted and protested the national holiday and held a bake sale to raise money for CAHOOTS.
After Isiah Wagoner was hit by a car, fellow Black Unity organizers took a few days off to regroup, according to a Facebook post by Clea Ibrahim.
Black Lives Matter protesters from around the community gathered in front of the Lane County Jail on the evening of July 1 to show solidarity for detainees in the middle of a hunger strike.
While at the jail, protesters also advocated for justice for Wagoner. The man who hit him, Travis Waleri, has not been charged with any crimes yet, and Eugene police say they are still investigating the incident.
As the night went on, the protest grew more intense as people arrived and began lighting off fireworks and making noise outside the jail. Some protesters tore down a fence near the jail, smashing the windshield of a car and spray painting “ACAB,” meaning “all cops are bastards,” on the sign out front. The night ended with a burning of the American flag and one protester arrested.
The next day, the county sheriff’s department labeled the events as a riot. On June 30, Gov. Kate Brown had signed a bill that bans tear gas, except in situations that police declare to be a riot. Law enforcement must then announce that they will be deploying the tear gas before doing so. While tear gas was not used at the jail, deputies deployed pepperballs, according to the sheriff’s office.
On Friday, July 3, Black Unity held a protest called “The truth behind the flag. Justice for Isiah.” At the march, organizers demanded justice for Wagoner and spoke about how the American flag and the Fourth of July represent freedom and independence for white people, but symbolize oppression for Black, Indigenous and people of color.
The protest started near the tennis courts at Westmoreland Park near 21st Avenue and Polk Street. At about 7 pm, around 200 people milled around on the grass. An organizer blasted the hip hop track “Fuck Donald Trump,” by YG and Nipsey Hussle through a portable speaker.
The group moved southeast from there. At 25th and Friendly, they stopped for speeches from mothers in the Black Unity leadership group.
They mourned that their young children who were at the children’s protest had to experience such violent racism, so early in their lives. Some of their kids saw Wagoner get hit by a car, which had an American flag bumper sticker on it, at the protest.
“It feels like a real slap in the face during the Fourth of July. You see all these big ass, big daddy trucks with American flags,” Black Unity organizer Kinaya Haug said. “After something like that happened, it feels like a real slap in the face, especially after that car had one on its bumper.”
“Let’s get a chant for all of our Black babies out there,” somebody yelled. “Our children matter! Our children matter,” the protesters chanted.
The protesters then marched up to 29th and Chambers, where they sat in the road for more speeches. Chants of “Fuck the flag, fuck the flag,” turned into “Fuck your flag! Fuck your flag!”
Organizer Martin Allums spoke about his feelings on the fourth and the flag, saying that it didn’t represent freedom for all, but instead, the freedom for white people to oppress people of color.
“When we say fuck the flag, we’re saying fuck your independence,” he said. “We want equality. We want to be included.”
The protesters marched north down Chambers stopping at 18th and Chambers and blocking the busy intersection for more speeches, before heading back to Westmoreland Park. The protest ended at around 10 pm.
On that same Friday, community organizers held a bake sale as a fundraiser for CAHOOTS, and 100 percent of the proceeds went to the crisis response organization that people nationwide are looking to as an alternative to policing.
Looking ahead, The BIPOC Liberation Collective is hosting an anti-racism and anti-capitalist march at Monroe Park on Friday, July 10. Protesters are planning a march in Corvallis on Saturday July 11. On July 12, there will be a vigil for Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Army soldier and person of color who was killed by another soldier in Texas. On the same night Black Unity will be hosting a movie at Sladden Park.
Organizers of Black Unity are also collaborating with Creative Gallery and Hooper Mentality Foundation for the July 18 youth event “Speak Up and Dribble,” where marchers will dribble and play basketball while moving through the streets of Eugene. ν
For more information and a calendar of Black Lives Matter related events in Eugene visit BoopTroopEugene.com.