FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Squiggy Rubio or Verbena, (707) 407-5017
Growing Encampment Protesting Human Rights Violations Against Houseless People
PEOPLE PROJECT Proposes Free, People-Run, Eco-Sustainable Campground
Thirty-five houseless people and supportive community members began a demonstration on city property, the lawn of the ‘neighborhood center’ on D Street in Arcata Saturday afternoon. Later that evening, the demonstrators set up tents to form an encampment where people have been dialoguing, skill-sharing and sharing food during the day and sleeping at night. By Monday many more people are participating in, visiting and supporting the encampment. Early Monday a banner was posted over highway 101: “It’s a Crime to Sleep Outside. Is that alright with you?”
The encampment protest has been organized by People Project to reveal the crisis of persistent cruelty and human rights violations that houseless people face every day and every night in this community. The goal of the encampment protest is to ultimately generate community support for a free, people-run and eco-sustainable campground.
Some of the signs displayed by protesters read: “Sleep Deprivation is Torture;” “Where Would Jesus Sleep?;” and “Dignity and Respect for All.” Houseless activist Charlie said “we are reclaiming this public space to inspire dialogue with others in the community about the need for a people-run, free, ecologically, sustainable campground.” “It is already meeting a concrete need for many by providing shelter, safety and food” he continued.
Over 200 people in the Arcata area, children, veterans, grandparents, elderly, activists, teens, babies are without available shelter or even a safe outside place to exist free of harassment.
One young man attested, “I got woke up by APD the other day. They arrested me and I was beat up for no reason. The next morning both my arms hurt like hell, and I have marks on my wrists from hand cuffs, and I had a bump on my head, and my nose was all broken.” Even when houseless people do not get beat up, they are rousted from sleep often between 2am and dusk and forced to hide someplace else or stay awake. These types of reports are common at People Project meetings where houseless and concerned people meet Tuesday nights. At meetings people eat, share stories, organize around human rights, support each other and create autonomous solutions.
People Project wants to be clear that the encampment action is not asking for money or “help” from government. “We have found that to be useless” said longtime People Project participant, reflecting on a history of local protest and articulated needs by houseless people and advocates in local government forums. Rather, with this action People Project seeks to connect with caring community members and strengthen the houseless community’s vision of a campground.
As the first protest signs went up on rainy Saturday, “Ranger Bob” Murphy of the Arcata Police Department arrived. Murphy is notorious for ambushing people sleeping in the forest and harassing houseless people and people that he profiles “transient” and homeless. He promptly ordered B & B Portable Toilets to remove the port-a-potty for which demonstrators had paid earlier that day. Not only is it criminal to sleep anywhere in Arcata, but in addition, there are NO public restrooms.
An interaction at the encampment with Arcata City council member Paul Pitino, involved discussion about the illegality of the city’s policies that target houseless people and fly in the face of the 9th Circuit Court’s ‘Jones’ decision in 2006. For a community that considers itself progressive, it seems unthinkable that there would be such an increasing number of poor and houseless people falling victim to constant harassment and violations.
People Project believes that if the real day and night truth is known by caring people in Arcata and surrounding areas, and if prejudices can be broken down through the encampment, compassion, cooperation, and dignitywill flourish in the area.
Encampment participants invite the public to stop by anytime, day or night, and support the camp and a future free, people-run, eco-sustainable campground.