Activists: trespass tickets aimed at homeless
EUGENE, Ore. -- A "No Trespassing" sign painted on the planter box outside the Horsehead Tavern marks the spot where Alley Valkyrie was arrested for Criminal Trespassing in the Second Degree.
"I just went like this absentmindedly, without even thinking about it," said Valkyrie, 30, as she demonstrated putting her back foot on the planter box outside the Horsehead Tavern. "And all of a sudden, he looks over, his eyes bulged out and he says, criminal trespassing!"
Valkyrie said she barely touched the spot with her foot, but that police targeted her for arrest because of her prior watchdog attitude. She said she had routinely videotaped police activity downtown.
She said she was in front of the tavern watching another person being arrested for possession of marijuana when she was then cited for trespassing.
According to the Eugene Police report, Valkyrie was sitting on the planter box and would not leave when directed to do so by an officer. Valkyrie said the report was "filled with lies," and she said she's being singled out by police.
"This is all about the fact that there are many people downtown watching police actions and trying to hold police actions accountable for their behavior," she said, "especially in how they're treating the homeless and the disenfranchised, and the police don't like it."
Friday afternoon, Valkyrie helped organize an event at Ken Kesey Plaza to bring attention to the issue of how police are enforcing the downtown exclusion law, recently renewed by Eugene's city council until November.
Meanwhile, Eugene Police said they do not have a specific policy of harassment towards the homeless.
"Sometimes it's just kind of mind-boggling to think that they think we have just got this torch that we're carrying to harass the homeless," said Eugene Police Capt. Rich Stronach. "And that's not the case at all."
At the event at Kesey Plaza downtown merchant Walt Hunt, who owns New Odyssey, said if the exclusion law is being abused by police he would not support it.
"We don't want the occupy people or the homeless people to be victimized by any of these laws," said Hunt at the plaza on Friday. "And if this is happening, and this has been said by me before, that we wouldn't support things like that."
Stronach said the real issue is about behavior. He said all police are doing is enforcing no trespassing laws downtown and trying to protect small businesses from specific individuals who constantly loiter.
Late Friday afternoon, Stronach said city officials have decided to drop Alley Valkyries's case because she was not given enough time to comply with the officer's orders to leave the planter boxes.