"How Subhuman do I Have to Go?"
Rod Adams sits at Morse Free Speech Plaza in an act of civil disobedience, and he plans to stay until he is taken away by the police. A Veteran of the US Army, he now finds being anywhere is an act of civil disobedience; he is homeless. Considered 100% disabled by the government, Rod is technically a 'ward of the state' because of issues stemming from his time in the service. The small pension he receives is not enough to cover the basic essentials of our society. He is tired of living in fear of the police and those that would rob or harm the homeless. By setting up camp next to the statue of free speech advocate Wayne L. Morse at the Lane County Courthouse plaza, Mr. Adams hopes to make a stand against the systemic mistreatment of all homeless people in our society. When asked how he thinks this act will play out, his response is a simple, Thoreau-esque, "I will be arrested."
Without having a place to live, most aspects of Rod's life have to be done in fear of the law: sleeping in public places is illegal, and he has no access to a bathroom when he needs. In his experience, although homeless people are on occasion tolerated, they are indirectly criminalized. Basic means of living that most of us take for granted are withheld from him because he can't afford our society. His pension just isn't enough to cover housing, food, health care, phone, and car upkeep - Which leads to his current dilemma.
Rod was ticketed while driving his car without insurance in the beginning of June. For him to pay the ticket would mean to go without an essential for some time - food, new glasses or other health essentials. He cannot afford to pay the ticket so he will have heftier fines levied, which in turn he will not be able to pay. Without paying them, he will be put in jail, while in jail he won't get his pension, he will have more fees imposed by the jail. A truly viscious cycle has begun.
Fed up with the miserable treatment of veterans and homeless folks in general, Mr. Adams is going to stay camped out at Eugene's Free Speech Plaza, hoping to raise awareness in the public and improve the situations for all homeless people. He believes that to do this, society at large will have to change: "Revamp the system, and politicians can't do it... it's going to have to be a people's movement" is his outlook on the situation. He's written a letter of intent, delivered to the court and copies that he hands to people who look in on him as they pass through the plaza.
One passer-by was asked his opnion about Rod's campout to reply "I think it's very inspiring; it's about time people in this country stop asking for their basic human rights and start taking them."
I asked Rod if really intended to be here for as long as it took. His response: "I've got nowhere else to go."