Tuesday, June 10, 2008

HOMELESS FIGHT SWEEPS IN SEATTLE


More than a dozen homeless people and friends were arrested yesterday in Seattle after camping overnight outside Seattle's City Hall. They were protesting new rules authorized by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. The rules come on the heels of the removal of at least six homeless camps across the city this year.

"It's like, if the police came into your apartment and went through your apartment and decided what to keep and what to throw away, its like the same thing," said Bill Shephard, homeless advocate.

The demonstration was organized by the group
Real Change.

One of those arrested, Mike Smith, contrasted the cordiality of the police action against the protesters to the sweeps of homeless encampments which he likened to a death sentence.

A downward economic spiral will keep "people dropping to the bottom," Smith told the Seattle Post-Intelligncer, who has cerebral palsy and lives in low-income housing near Pike Place Market.

"They're lucky to have a tent and a place to put it to survive. When you take away their means to survive, you're going to kill a percentage of them -- guaranteed. So as far as I'm concerned, the sweeps policy is about killing people."

During the protest Women in Black read the names of 283 homeless people who have died outside since 2000.

One man, John who has lived on Seattle's streets for six months told radio station KIRO that many of his friends have lost work tools, clothes, pots, pans, tents warm weather gear. "Throwing it away when it's brand-new stuff half the time," he says. "It's about common decency."

He says the current city policy requires police and parks' workers to throw-out everything, which he says doesn't make sense, "They were constantly losing stuff and constantly re-buying it, and then they'd lose it again a few days later," John says. "You can only knock somebody down so many times before they decide they're just not going to get back up."

Chris Kissel at the blog "SLOG News and Art" told about some people she met at the protest:

"Finally, I met Veronyka Tristan and Neres Johnson, a homeless couple standing outside the gathering. Tristan, who said she had recently become pregnant, told me that she and Johnson have been homeless for months. “You try to sleep at a park and the police wake you up; you try to sleep under a bridge, and people throw water on your stuff,” she said. Tonight, the couple would be camping out. After that, they said they’d be sleeping “wherever the Lord lets us sleep.”'

Tristan and Johnson, like nearly everyone I talked to yesterday, had a few choice words for city politicians. “If the mayor were here, I’d tell him to grow some balls,” said Tristan. “I’d kick his ass,” Johnson added."

Tim Harris, Executive Director of Real Change said, "I think in an ideal world no one should have to sleep in a park, but I think some people have to sleep outdoors because there isn't anywhere else for them to be. To bar from the usage of public land is criminal and inhumane."

The Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project has many faces, a newspaper, an advocacy group, a Homeless Speakers Bureau, and literary workshops.

The following is from the Seattle Times.

15 seized in homeless protest

Fifteen people protesting the sweeps of homeless encampments in Seattle parks were arrested Monday morning after they blocked Cherry Street on the north side of City Hall in Seattle by pitching a tent in the street and standing in the road.

The protesters, who included homeless people and their supporters, including at least two clergymen, were arrested before 9:35 a.m. The 15 were interviewed and released, according to police spokesman Sean Whitcomb. He said it will be up to the City Attorney's office whether to file charges of pedestrian interference.

The last to be arrested was Dana Sutliffe, with the Real Change Organizing Project. She yelled, "Stop the sweeps!" as she was led away. Sutliffe said she is from Norway, and "to see people on the street here is just an atrocity for me."

John Moorehead, a homeless man who works construction jobs, said he participated in the blockade because "my camps have been raided three or four times when I'm trying to get ahead. How can you get ahead when they're taking your stuff?"

The Rev. Rich Lang, pastor of Trinity Methodist Church in Ballard, was wearing his clerical vestments when he was arrested in the rain. He said Mayor Greg Nickels "has chosen the side of the developers and people with financial interests. That's not bad, but he's forgotten the people on the lower rung."

"It's my understanding everybody was cooperative. It went fairly smoothly. This was a planned event," said Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson.

After the last person was arrested, officers took down the tent that was blocking traffic.

Protesters chanted, "Sweep Nickels, not the homeless," referring to a homeless sweeps policy initiated by the mayor. Sunday night, the homeless, their supporters and activists had pitched tents in front of City Hall in protest.

It was the third annual overnight protest camp-out, and organizer Timothy Harris said advocates are frustrated, calling the policy unfair and inadequate.

Alex Fryer, a spokesman for Nickels, said the sweeps policy tries to balance the needs of the homeless with protecting city parks.

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

For every homeless shelter in the US, there are hundreds of animal shelters.