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Published on Tuesday December 20, 2011 - 11:17 AM
 
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EUGENE, Oregon - Floodlights and police inspections at the Occupy Eugene encampment have created what the protesters call a prison-camp atmosphere intended to drive them out before a Jan. 11 deadline.

Noisy generators power the lights brought in last week, and officers patrol the camp nearly 24 hours a day.

"You absolutely cannot sleep," organizer Alley Valkyrie said in a story Tuesday. "It amounts to psychological warfare."

On Monday evening, police began enforcing two recently enacted rules for the park.

One forbids firearms and a variety of other weapons such as knives, axes, crossbows, metal knuckles and straight razors. Another prohibits minors from staying in tents with adults unless the adult is the minor's parent or guardian.

Police Chief Pete Kerns said the extra enforcement was needed because assaults, drug sales and other crimes had become common at the camp. City officials said the lights make it safer by allowing police and medical personnel to see what they are doing in the park.

The floodlights came after Occupy Eugene participants, rebuffed in attempts to get electricity to the site, asked the city to provide lights.

"We were thinking string lights," organizer John Monroe said.

The City Council has voted to give the protesters three weeks to pack up and leave Washington-Jefferson park in downtown Eugene. It also set aside $300,000 for initiatives involving law enforcement and homelessness at the camp.

The Occupy Eugene movement began in October as a political protest in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street. It moved several times before settling in the park under a downtown bridge in early November. Much of the encampment now consists of homeless and street people.

The Eugene police officers union faulted the mayor and members of the City Council who voted to allow Occupy Eugene to stay in the park.

It said the conditions were unsafe for officers and the encampment has open drug use, prostitution of minors and other dangers.