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Weekend Riots Leave Destruction...And Questions


It remains unknown which individuals created a bonfire in a traffic intersection and trashed a business complex in Eugene Friday night.  As KLCC's Brian Bull reports, the riot grew out of a peaceful protest over the death of George Floyd.

Four businesses were looted during a large, unruly gathering of 300 people Friday night. Eugene Police arrested 14 people over the weekend, but none tied to the destruction at Washington and 7th Avenue.

Credit EPD
The Five Guys burger place off of Washington and 7th, after rioters shattered its storefront Friday night.

Social media buzz suggests the rioters were anarchists, antifa, or white nationalists, to name a few. 

EPD Chief Skinner says there's little information to go on, but adds that the rioters were definitely not with the Black Lives Matter organizers honoring George Floyd.

“The instigators were largely white, young men and women," says Skinner. 

"Unfortunately, people have a tendency to want to lump this into a Black Lives Matter movement responsible for some of this violence, and we’re just not seeing that at all.

A tweet showing white people trashing a Five Guys in Eugene, while a Black Lives Matter organizer pleads for them to stop.

"Our communities of color have been loud and proud, and they’ve also been very respectful and lawful.”

The EPD was criticized for not moving in sooner Friday night.  Skinner says dispersing the crowds with tear gas was safer than sending in personnel to arrest rioters.

Days later, the community is trying to recover.  Cleanup and rebuilding is underway across the Eugene area, with businesses replacing shattered glass, replacing defaced doorways, and painting over graffiti. 

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
A few days after a weekend filled with rallies, protests, and a riot, a downtown business paints over graffiti sprayed on its building.

Meanwhile, there were two instances of Eugene Police hitting local journalists with projectiles over the weekend. 

Talking to a small group of reporters on Monday, Skinner says they’re working to avoid further incidents. He says they need to figure out how to better recognize reporters who are out past curfew, and not just imposters trying to cause trouble.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
EPD Chief Chris Skinner, talking to local media on Monday.

“We had a litany of people telling us they were journalists in an attempt to try and avoid police contact or arrest," says Skinner.  "As we move into the future, I think what you’ll see is a stronger system that looks something like a check-in with names being captured, and some credentialing from the city that is really obvious to law enforcement professionals.”

Both reporters were with print media, so were not handling cameras or recorders with station logos that might’ve otherwise signaled who they were (in the above video, they are heard announcing they're reporters several times).  Skinner says he’s sorry that the reporters got hit with crowd control devices.  But he adds police officers working to stem potential riots don’t have the “discretionary time” to vet every person calling themselves a journalist. 

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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