Several hundred people in Eugene continued to peacefully protest police brutality Tuesday, chanting the name of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last week.
Protesters gathered near Whole Foods and Wayne L. Morse Federal Courthouse at 5 p.m. and chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “George Floyd” as passing cars honked in support.
Shannon O’Shea, a protester who’s lived in Eugene for three years, said that her partner, who is half-Jamaican and half-white, moved out of Eugene because of harassment from police.
“Once it actually is personal and it’s someone you really care about, it kind of changes things because there’s a lot of people in the movement that haven’t experienced police brutality and haven’t seen it first hand,” she said. “But once you see it first hand, and you experience it, it completely changes your entire view.”
This is the fifth day of protests in Eugene. Thousands of people peacefully marched on Sunday from the courthouse to Alton Baker Park. The organizers of Sunday’s protest, siblings Spencer Smith and Madeliene Smith, attended Tuesday’s protest as well.
“My sister and I joked after the protest we were burnt out because we have probably slept 20 hours in six days. We’ve got no sleep, we’ve just grinded. We were stressed, we weren’t eating, we weren’t sleeping, we weren’t seeing friends, we were just grinding the entire time,” Spencer Smith said.
Spencer said that his approach to change is through advocating for change through the legislature and at local institutions like the University of Oregon or the Eugene Police Department. Both Madeliene and Spencer disapproved of the looting that happened on Friday night, saying that the violence and destruction was performative activism of activists who are not people of color and who are there to show up for social media.
“It’s a lot of performative activism at the hands of, sorry to say, white people, because I’ve seen a lot of my brothers and sisters out there trying to get people to stop,” Madeliene said.
On Tuesday, Instagram users across the country posted pictures of a black square as a part of a social media blackout, which both Smiths described as performative activism.
“That doesn’t do shit. I’m gonna say it straight up,” Madeliene said.
“Donate. Listen to us. Listen to people of color,” Spencer said.
But Spencer said the momentum from Sunday has not died down, joking that he and his sister were planning to take a break after the protest, but more messages kept coming in on Sunday.
“Everyone kept asking us: ‘What do we want to do next?’ ‘What are you guys going to do? Are you doing one next weekend?’ ‘Can we donate?’ ‘Where should we donate?’ ‘Where can we call?’”
The Smiths created their own community organization on Facebook called the Black Led Action Coalition.
The group of protesters, growing in size, marched down the sidewalk and made its way to the Lane County Circuit Court, filling the plaza. Protesters circled around in the courtyard just outside the courthouse on the corner of 8th and Oak Street to allow crowd members the chance to address the group.
University of Oregon student Kent Swift stepped into the middle of the plaza to talk about how grateful he was for the support of non-Black people of color and white protesters during this time of violence toward young Black men like him.
He said his mom didn’t want him to come out to the protest because she thought he might be targeted by police. “I'm one of the few Black people here, so you know, I might stand out more than others and understand that fear but I want to take that risk if it means you know doing what’s right,” Swift said in an interview with the Emerald.
Protesters made their way past the Lane County prison, through Kesey Square, where volunteers passed out water, snacks and “tear gas kits” before making their way back to the federal courthouse.
After chanting the names of people of color who were killed by police, protesters sat in silence for nine minutes — the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck, which killed him. The only interruptions were the occasional car horns, barks of dogs or laughs of the small child across the street holding his own mini “one love” sign.
“Time for change,” one sign read.
“End police brutality.”
“A man was lynched.”
“Injustice anywhere is still injustice everywhere.”
“Black Lives Matter.”
A number of other protesters came up in front of the crowd of protesters perched on the courthouse steps to say a few words, including Tre Stewart, a popular protest live- streamer. “I just quit my job to do this every day,” Stewart said, before adding that protesters should continue to be respectful to the police so they can continue to peacefully protest every day.
One of the speakers said toward the end of the group’s time at the courthouse that she was worried this movement would die out after this week or the next. “Please do not forget about us,” she pleaded with her white counterparts.