The Student Insurgent #activism #eugene #direct action

Summer 2022 in Review

Outrage over the federal overturning of Roe V. Wade in early summer of 2022 peaked on the night of June 24th. Following the official Supreme Court decision declared the same morning, there was a day of civil unrest at Eugene’s Federal Courthouse where thousands of residents took to the streets to defend reproductive autonomy. Protestors gathered in the company of career politicians, non-profits such as Planned Parenthood, as well as the inevitable presence of pro-life counterprotestors. As night fell over the town, the pussy hats were swapped for black bloc as a small group of about 100 individuals gathered in collective protest at the Dove Medical Clinic on East 11th— a faith-based “pregnancy crisis center” that discourages abortions as health care (boo!).

What unfolded as hours passed was the most intense standoff between Eugene activists and local police since M29 and related solidarity movements in Spring and Summer of 2020. Despite 10 arrests, this action by many regards could be considered, if not quite a success, a step in the right direction for Eugene radicals. Several affinity groups autonomously unified, and despite no prior consensus on tactics, managed to hold off police violence and arrests for almost three hours before the police bludgeoned morale. This skirmish reminded the radical scene in Eugene what it’s capable of, and what we have to improve on in organization and tactics to ensure greater success in future direct actions.

The next day, June 25th, the Revolutionary Women’s Committee (RWC) held a public informational session at Monroe Park to engage the community in topics of reproductive, gender, racial, and economic justice. With about 80 in attendance, several large breakout groups were created, encouraging discussion and networking around these issues. This groundwork helped establish the affinities and alliances necessary for organizing around another contentious issue during an already contentious summer: a series of protests against the World Athletics Championships (WAC) that invaded Eugene in mid-July.

On July 23rd, Eugene Housing and Neighborhood Defense (HAND), RWC, and Stop the Sweeps Eugene organized a teach-in and march resisting neoliberal extravagance in a city that’s neglected a desperate houselessness crisis for years. This demonstration was one of several, as 350 Eugene and Stop the Sweeps both schemed earlier in the week to disrupt increased traffic near campus and spread awareness to their respective issues. The July 23rd action attracted the attention of EPD as a crowd of roughly 50 protestors headed toward the Nike storefront on 6th & Pearl, passing the Riverfront Festival (which disastrously redirected over-promised revenues away from local businesses) and many a complacent passersby. The event crowds gawked at the spectacle before them, a necessary reality check amidst such a falsely manicured image of life in Eugene. It was an overdue interruption to the carefully crafted illusionary brand of liberal recreational paradise that the Tracktown USA spent millions in public and private funds manufacturing.

In further resistance to the corporate grip, events this summer solicited more support around growing social class consciousness and potential for autonomous resource stability in our community. One example of this energy was the revival of the Neighborhood Anarchist Collective’s (NAC) Share Fair, an anti-capitalist free market organized to connect neighbors in need to essential resources. Both the NAC Share Fair and local Starbucks unionization efforts are testament to the growing popularity and need for progressive politics in Eugene. This solidarity is perhaps the result of collaborative seeds planted on May Day 2022, which helped develop a more unified network of local activists, in turn creating greater capacity for political empowerment.

One lesson to be learned from this summer of actions is that resistance in this city is taking many forms. Through political education, direct action, and mutual aid networks, Eugene citizens are steadily empowering themselves via various initiatives that challenge the current political order and foster resilience against the crises capitalism creates. This is reminiscent of the legacy of radical activism in Eugene from the ‘90s and early 21st century, and I dare to say that this spirit has at last returned to our community after decades of hard work from activists old and new in the region. We cannot afford to lose this momentum again, let’s continue building strong, sustainable movements like the many we participated in over Summer 2022.