Eugene police plan extra presence at conservative rally on Saturday

If tensions boil over between participants and counter-protesters, they say there are plans in place.

Posted: Aug 9, 2019 6:13 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene Police Department has allocated extra officers to be present during the "God, Guns and Liberty" rally in case participants and counter-protesters clash on Saturday outside the Lane County Courthouse. 

The open-carry conservative rally initially drew attention for being scheduled during PRIDE in the Park. Organizers say the scheduling conflict was coincidental and that they support LGBTQ communities. 

Still, community members upset by the display of guns after last weekend's mass shootings organized two different counter-protests in response.

The rally and counter-protests are planned to take place at the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., coinciding with the regularly-scheduled farmers and saturday markets. In light of the potentially large crowds, authorities say they are ensuring the events will be secure. 

RELATED: COUNTER-PROTESTS DEVELOP AS 'GOD, GUNS AND LIBERTY' RALLY APPROACHES

"We are there to be a presence, and make sure that everybody is afforded their right to free speech and to assemble and make sure everybody is safe," said Deputy Chief Stacy Jepson. 

Police say that the participants of the conservative rally have the legal right to carry their guns openly in the plaza. Authorities are also in contact with all of the parties that are involved. If tensions boil over, they say there are plans in place. 

Some community members are fearful that the opposing groups and the presence of guns could result in violence.

"I specifically asked the father of my son, 'Do not bring my son down here. I don't want him around the hate.' I think it's going to be really busy. You never know what could happen because of someone's wrong state," said long-time Eugene resident Danadia Green.

Not all participants are concerned about violence. Food cart co-owner Misti Hagen is hopeful that both parties maintain civility.

"I think for some people, it will make them uncomfortable, which is unfortunate," she said. "But I am happy that people are exercising the rights that we do have. That's great."

KEZI 9 News also spoke with organizers of the Farmers Market, who said that they are working closely with police to make sure it is safe and secure. They ask that all participants respect visitors and stay peaceful.

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