On Sunday, June 3, 2012, a campaign to target homeless youth downtown began. After a bit of behind the scenes negotiating by my fellow Occupy Eugene volunteers, the police backed down to a more reasonable presence. The Eugene Exclusion Zone has been a thorn in the sides of Eugeneans for too long. The problem is that complicated but for most citizens, allowing police to serve as judge, jury and executioner for petty offenses before the case faces the remainder of the justice system, is unconstitutional.
One June 11th, I spoke in front of city council as a representative of Occupy Eugene’s Medical Clinic in an attempt to rectify the problem. I have included my comments below.
“Members of city council, my name is Sue Sierralupe. I have been a citizen of this fair city for over 25 years. Counselor Brown is my representative. In addition to working a full time job and homeschooling my youngest son, I have enjoyed the honor of serving as the volunteer coordinator for Occupy Eugene Medical Clinic (OEMC). Our clinic is staffed every Sunday from 1-5 pm at the downtown Park Blocks by a fabulous team of dedicated volunteers who also see the wisdom in setting aside a large chunk of their busy weeks to make our community a better place to live in.
Every week, after we set up our “Band Aid” colored tent, we are greeted by a crowd of people eager to use our services. Each week, at one passerby offers a donation of goods, money or time to our clinic because they see the need that we fill. The volunteers at OEMC are not only saving lives, we are changing lives.
We are joined by other organizations to alleviate the suffering that we see in this community. We have arranged with St. Vincent de Paul and Medical Teams International to orchestrate a free dental clinic. On any given Sunday, we, at the clinic treat 1/3 to 1/4 of our patients for excruciating dental pain. The dental clinic is a dream come true for all of us.
On Sunday, June 3rd, I showed up at the Park Blocks to sign patients up for the limited space for this one day clinic. This was, unfortunately, the start of the downtown social cleansing which was prompted by complaints by business owners eager to tuck homeless youth out of sight before the Olympic Trials. The park was deserted. In the 7 hours that I worked downtown, I was able to sign 2 patients up for our clinic.
The Eugene police is made up of a talented group of problem solvers. They understand what a service our clinic is to Eugene. They see the effects. It makes their jobs easier.
I would suggest that visitors to the Olympic Trials would be impressed by a community that reaches out to the poor and the suffering.
I would suggest that the police would be happier working to stop real crime than working to badger homeless kids for petty offenses.
I would suggest that by letting OEMC do our jobs, at no cost to any one, our community is and will continue to be a better place to live in for all of us, including downtown business owners.
I beg you to stop the bullying, harassment and exclusion of my patients. We need to solve the problems in our community but they can only be fixed with compassion and common sense, not by abuse. Please just let us help our patients. I promise it will be worth it.