City Prosecutor Won't Press Charges Against Protesters Who Disrupted Eugene Brewery

Feb 19, 2020

There will be no charges against several protesters who entered a Eugene brewery and denounced a local business group earlier this month.

In a still from a video provided by Eugene Wake Up, a group of protesters stand on tables and make speeches to Elk Horn patrons with a megaphone. A banner (not shown) read, "HOUSEKEYS NOT HANDCUFFS".

The Eugene City Prosecutor’s Office told Elk Horn Brewery owner Stephen Sheehan about their decision. Sheehan founded Eugene Wake Up, after repeat acts of vandalism and litter from what he calls “lawless” transients. One attack back in October cost him $8,000 in structural damages.

On February 8th, nearly 20 protesters stood on tables and made speeches through a bullhorn against Sheehan and his group.  They accused him and his members of criminalizing the homeless. In a release sent after the action, a group calling itself Stop Death On the Streets said activists are protesting public safety decisions "that only serve to sanitize the streets for the comfort of wealthy business and home owners."

Elk Horn Brewery owner Stephen Sheehan.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Sheehan says he’s disappointed in the prosecutor’s decision. He says as a former homeless person himself, he’s not against the unhoused, just "bad behavior" that has hurt local businesses.

Sheehan adds that he’s provided food and work to some homeless people occupying local rest stops, and is hopeful city officials and are business-owners can find ways to curb dangerous activity "from anyone who's being lawless, housed or unhoused."

While no charges have been made, the protesters can be cited for trespassing if they return to the brewery.

Neither the city prosecutor nor an organizer with the protesters responded to requests for comment in time for this story.

A woman arrested for repeat attacks against the brewery was arrested in October. She's charged with two counts of first-degree criminal mischief, second-degree burglary, and attempted second-degree arson.

UPDATE, 8:24pm 2/19/20 -  KLCC has received an official statement from Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis:

“In response to news today that the city prosecutor will not press charges against demonstrators who unfurled a banner and used a bullhorn in the Elk Horn Brewery 10 days ago, I am working with city staff to convene a gathering of business owners, homeless advocates and other members of our community to help us find a path toward cooperation.  

I recognize that the prosecutor’s decision not to prosecute will be deeply frustrating to many in the business community. Members of Wake Up, Eugene in particular, are united in their conviction that the City is failing to protect their businesses from lawlessness.  

 

At the same time, the City’s Human Rights Commission has voted to forward a report to council with recommendations regarding decriminalizing homelessness, frustrated by City policies that are perceived to unfairly penalize people who have nowhere to sleep legally.

 

As Mayor, I am concerned about the actual experiences of both business owners and people who are homeless; and the perceived unfairness and marginalization that both express about our City’s policies.

 

We will begin by talking to one another -- with a goal to be heard and also to listen -- as the first step in changing this narrative. The City is more deeply invested in solutions both to homelessness and to public safety than ever before -- but we will only succeed if we all feel that the solutions address our perspectives, experiences and needs.

 

As I have said before, the dual investments in implementation of the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) recommendations to improve our homeless services and create a permanent shelter and our increased investment in the full array of public safety services will improve life for housed and unhoused alike in our community in the coming years. But we are not there yet. And we need to work together.  

 

The gathering that I will convene is part of our on-going effort to create a safe and respectful place for us to listen and hear one another to help us move in the same direction toward solutions. I will keep the public updated as this conversation takes shape.”

 

UPDATE, 6:24pm 2/19/20 -  KLCC has received an official statement from City of Eugene City Prosecutor, Travis Smith:

“The City Prosecutor’s Office received and reviewed the police report and video of the February 8th incident at Elkhorn Brewery.  This office considered the following charges under City Code:  Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree, Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree, and Disorderly Conduct.  After reviewing all of the available evidence, I have concluded that the specific facts and circumstances of this incident do not give rise to a criminal charge that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and, therefore, the City Prosecutor’s Office will not file any charges at this time.  If the individuals involved in the February 8th incident were verbally trespassed from Elkhorn Brewery and they return to the location, they may be arrested for Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree.”

Copyright 2020, KLCC.