ASHLAND, Ore--- On Saturday night, peaceful protestors will call upon the Ashland City Council to defund the Ashland Police Department during a rally at the Ashland Plaza.
One of the "Ashland Defund Police" organizers, Erik Navickas, says it is in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Specifically to Ashland though, the rally stems from what organizers say is a need to address the homelessness issue in Ashland.
"We feel that a lot of money is being wasted by funding police that is just harassing these people downtown, rather than really addressing the problem and dealing with the solution in a healthy way, or dealing with the problem in a healthy way," said Navickas.
Since 2007, The Ashland Police Department has seen steady increases in funding. In fact, according to the City of Ashland, the department has seen a near two-million-dollar increase in operations.
Ashland Police Chief Tighe O'Mera and Saturday's protestors are not too far apart.
"So, I don't disagree with a lot of the people that say we should defund the police," said O'Mera. "Because what they are really saying is that we need to have more of an emphasis on mental health and substance abuse treatment and addressing the homeless issues. So, I will actually disagree that we need to get rid of police officers. You are always going to need a police officer to respond to a violent crime."
Saturday's protest will ask the Ashland City Council to discuss defunding the police department at Monday's City Council study session. During that study session, the Ashland City Council will be addressing funding issues in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief O'Mera says the Ashland Police Department has no plans to have any presence at the rally, but the department will have extra officers on hand just in case there is a need for a response. O'Mera says he will continue to support the Ashland citizens having peaceful protests at the plaza.
The rally at the Ashland Plaza will start on Saturday, at 7 p.m.