Elk Horn Vows Not To 'Let Up' After Weekend Riot

Jul 29, 2020

The owner of a brewery that was vandalized during Saturday’s riot says he’s enjoying the support of the larger community, as he and his staff rebuild his establishment.

Nearly four days after a crowd of 200 rioters shattered windows and spraypainted Elk Horn's exterior, much of the visible damage has been removed or partially cleaned up.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Stephen Sheehan of Elk Horn Brewery says he’s not sure yet what the total damages are from shattered windows and graffiti, but many locals have turned out to help him recoup his losses through patronage and a fundraiser.

Sheehan adds the Black Lives Matter movement is important, but is being undermined by violent agitators who simply want to destroy things. 

Other businesses reporting damage from last Saturday night are Wells Fargo and Whole Foods, which saw anti-capitalistic graffiti sprayed on their exteriors. 

To many Eugeneans, it was reminiscient of a riot that broke out May 29th.  A vigil and march for George Floyd was held in the downtown, but later on an unruly crowd - mostly young, white people -- began shattering windows and burning tables and dumpsters at a business complex off of Washington and West 7th.  Videos from that night show Black protesters pleading with them to stop, but being ignored.

A banner is unfurled during a Feb. 14, 2020 protest inside Elk Horn Brewery.
Credit Penny Royale

The damages from that evening came to $500,000.

“I feel like the protesters need to back off until they can get rid of some of these crazy people that are wrecking businesses, wrecking lives," Sheehan told KLCC Tuesday afternoon.

"There’s a lot of kids that are followers, looking up to these anarchists.  You can keep tearing up stuff every week, and we’ll keep building it back, because we will not let up.” 

Sheehan’s brewery has been targeted in the past, after he formed a business coalition called “Eugene Wake Up”.  The mission was for area businesses to have a unified say in issues affecting their bottom line, including disruptive behavior, drug use, theft and vandalism outside or near their entrances.   Sheehan cites an October 2019 incident where a woman caused $8000 in damages which included an attempt to hurl a Molotov cocktail into his kitchen.

Critics say Sheehan and his group are anti-homeless, and are essentially trying to criminalize a group of people who are already hurting. 

In February, roughly 20 activists staged a demonstration inside the brewery, unfurling a banner that read, "HOUSEKEYS NOT HANDCUFFS."  Speeches were made with a bullhorn inside the dining area, and afterwards, a group calling itself Stop Death On the Streets said they were protesting public safety decisions "that only serve to sanitize the streets for the comfort of wealthy business and home owners."

Several charges against the activists were explored, but Eugene's City Prosecutor declined after reviewing video footage and other evidence (but participants in the February 8th action were warned that if they were to set foot again inside the brewery, they would face criminal trespassing charges.)

In these photos from March 5th, Elk Horn owner Stephen Sheehan drops off free meals at a homeless rest-stop in Eugene. The weekly meal drop-offs began in early 2020, but had to end once the COVID-19 pandemic descended on the area a few weeks later.
Credit Brian Bull / KLCC

Sheehan counters he’s only against unlawful behavior by the unhoused, and has teamed up with a U of O sorority and other nearby businesses to fund foot patrols.  He's invited anyone who thinks he's anti-homeless to come by and have an "honest, upfront talk" about the issues affecting Eugene-Springfield.

Meanwhile, Eugene Police say they're continuing their investigations into Saturday night's violence.  A group of 200 protesters moved through Broadway, hurling rocks at police and damaging property before being dispersed with tear gas. Eight people were arrested that same evening.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.