FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2021
Houseless Activist Continues His Fight For Free Speech
Eugene, OR – Yesterday, local houseless activist Eric Jackson filed an appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals to challenge and overturn Lane County’s oppressive closures of the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in downtown Eugene.
Jackson was convicted by a jury in late March 2021 after being arrested for protesting overnight at the plaza. At the heart of Jackson’s appeal is the County’s complete shutdown of the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza from 11pm to 6am — for an entire one-third of the day — seven days a week.
The CLDC represented Jackson and argued the curfew was unconstitutional and in violation of the First Amendment and the Oregon State Constitution, but the trial court rejected the arguments and instead poorly interpreted free speech protections in a narrowing and disappointing ruling.
However, this curfew is just the latest County effort to close this important community free speech venue. Numerous prior unsuccessful and repressive County efforts to close the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza failed because courts ruled the closures to be unconstitutional.
On appeal, Jackson and the CLDC will petition a higher court to step in and uphold everyone’s First Amendment rights in public spaces.
“It’s unfortunate that the County insists on closing the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza to everyone, despite the community interest and lack of harm that results from people gathering to dissent and express their beliefs. Eric was protesting unjust treatment of the unhoused here—he should be honored for that rather than punished. We hope that the Court of Appeals will take a more open-minded approach to free speech than the trial court did when reviewing this case,” said Sarah Alvarez, CLDC staff attorney and Jackson’s legal representative.
Civil Liberties Defense Center supports movements that seek to dismantle the political and economic structures at the root of social inequality and environmental destruction.