City wants to put citizens in middle of protests
by John Capell
May 26, 2000- The next time that protests break
out in Eugene, the City of Eugene is asking
people to get in the middle of it despite the
dangers. It is part of a plan to recruit "impartial
observers". The impartial observers will
essentially be witnesses that will be able to
answer questions about what really happened
during a protest that gets out of control.
June 18th, the "Take Back the Streets" march that
turned into a riot was one of the growing lists of
protests that have turned violent. Police and
anarchists seem to come to protest expecting to
clash. Cops have been hurt by flying rocks and
bottles while protestors have suffered pepper spray,
tear gas and arrests. On top of this, innocent
bystanders have also come close to suffering real
Now, Eugene's Human Rights and Police commissioners
are proposing to try to turn down this rising heat by
sending civilians right into the middle of all of it.
Greg Rikhoff, Eugene's human rights manager, said,
"They literally would be watching the incident. They
would literally be observing what occurred. They would
be obeying all directions and orders given them by
police officers, but they would be absolutely,
positively watching what was going on."
Some anarchists are questioning how impartial the
observers could possible be. Marshall, an anarchist,
commented, "There is a big debate with valid arguments
on both sides about whether laws ought to be broken and
whether property ought to be destroyed and I've got a
pretty good guess as to which side of that debate the
impartial observers would be on."
Citizens also have concerns about the proposal. Joey
Hepner is one of the people who has to repair the
continuing vandalism at Broadway Place, where the June
First tree riot occurred two years ago. He is not happy
with those who damage his city, but he does have
concerns about the idea of standing by, essentially
asking them not to do it. He explained, "It depends on
how aggravated they were. I might run."
Jordan DeWein, another Eugene resident, added, "Part
of me would say, "No, I'd rather not be around or close
to something where I could potentially be hurt.""
Those proposing the idea acknowledge the risks, but
they say that it is worth it because it might end up
cooling down the confrontations. They hope to recruit
their observers before the anniversary of the June 18th