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Homeless Activist Fails In Constitutional Challenge Of Trespass Arrest

Brian Bull

A Lane County jury found a homeless activist who challenged a curfew in Eugene’s Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza guilty of misdemeanor trespass this week. The challenge was based on the first amendment.




Eric Jackson had organized a one-man vigil in the Plaza to protest sweeps of homeless camps by Eugene police. He was arrested and cited for trespass on February 14, 2019. Jackson challenged the constitutionality of his arrest, citing free speech. His attorney, Sarah Alvarez, with the Civil Liberties Defense Center, said their constitutional challenges were denied in municipal and circuit court.

“The issue was very, very narrow and the city made an effort to sanitize the free speech issues that were going on,” Alvarez said. “And it was very much an effort to cast Eric as just another homeless individual camping where he wasn’t supposed to camp.”

Alvarez said the proposed “Right to Rest” act in the state legislature would give homeless people more rights to sleep in public spaces. 

“In Oregon, cities and police officers continue to target unhoused individuals for sleeping and targeting when we all know that we don’t have enough beds and resources for people,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez told KLCC they’re weighing whether to appeal the verdict in Jackson’s case.

Copyright 2021 KLCC.


Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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