My phone buzzed around 1:15 in the morning, a text message from an unfamiliar number. “The cops just woke us up and they are arresting us for sleeping,” the message said. “Where are you?” I texted back. I wasn’t sure who it was on the other end of the line, but it didn’t really matter. People are arrested on a regular basis for sleeping in Eugene, and my determination to fight these laws and policies has resulted in many late-night texts such as this one.
I’ve written before about my friend Alley Valkyrie, a Feri initiate and Witch who runs a small local gift and clothing business in my town called Practical Rabbit, and who has become a central activist regarding how the homeless are treated in Eugene, Oregon. Her work on behalf of the homeless population’s basic legal rights has gotten her arrested, and garnered her plenty of local press in various stand-offs with local law enforcement and government officials. I know first-hand that Alley has spent thousands of her own dollars (and hours) on public record requests, legal challenges, and providing assistance to the local community, but as many veteran activists know, such individual efforts on problems so large and systematic can be draining, and without support many activists quickly burn out. Knowing this, and wanting to take her activism to the next level, a small group which includes Alley have launched a new organization called the Nightingale Public Advocacy Collective. “Our actions and objectives are rooted in the principle that everyone has a right to exist in public space regardless of socioeconomic status, and that the basic civil rights of individuals in public space outweigh the economic interests of businesses and government. We believe that all members of our community have inherent value regardless of their economic contributions or financial worth.