- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - A judge has upheld the ousting of homeless advocates who camped last fall in the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in downtown Eugene.

The plaza outside the county courthouse is dedicated to the iconoclastic former U.S. senator from Oregon, who was a staunch advocate of free speech.

Twice this year, protesters made it the center of their campaign for more legal places for homeless people to sleep in Eugene.

The decision by the county commissioners to have the plaza cleared and cleaned in September came amid protests that included the camp-in.

Three people who refused to leave were arrested and face trial.

The ruling came last week from Municipal Judge Karen Stenard (stin-AHRD’), the Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/1zp6UT5) reported Monday

Stenard said the county commissioners acted lawfully on “imminent and serious” concerns from the county health officer about potential disease transmission stemming from the protest, which included about 30 political activists and homeless people.

Dr. Philip Luedtke toured the camp. He reported he saw only 14 tents for 30 campers as well as food scraps around the camp, and he smelled urine and feces. But he said the food tent was stocked and organized, and dogs were on leashes and well behaved.

Eugene lawyer Brian Michaels said he expects a February trial for his two clients, Eugene residents Michael Gannon, 70, and Michael McFadden, 27.

No trial date has been set for the third suspect, 54-year-old Eugene resident Larry Brugh.

The ruling from Stenard was the third in two years on such questions.

Last year, Stenard threw out a citation against a woman who remained in the plaza after county officials ordered it closed.

In a separate ruling, she dismissed trespassing tickets issued to 21 protesters who defied a curfew at the plaza.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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