Public Comment

Human peace sign event dovetails with stopping the homeless merry-go-round

Carol Denney
Friday November 18, 2016 - 01:07:00 PM
Carol Denney
Carol Denney

I know there will be photos from a drone of the aerial view of the early morning human peace sign in Martin Luther King Civic Center Park today, November 18, 2016, which was a lovely event. I wore tie-dye, I raised my hands in peace signs, I helped make the human peace symbol for the bemused seagulls nearby to see. 

But my favorite photos are these of only two of the many people who brought their sense of shared purpose, their willingness to cross political divides to help organize positive change in this post-election moment, but also their clear voices of concern about the repeated raids of First They Came for the Homeless, the peaceful, drug-free group which has spent years doggedly illustrating the crying need for a legal place to sleep. 

First They Came for the Homeless was raided twice on the night before the human peace sign event; chased in the middle of the night from an area within the park back to within a few dozen feet of the same place they were evicted from only the day before. They were raided again early in the morning and forced to move about a dozen feet away by the same city police and staff which continues this curious sleep-confounding custom even in the wake of an apparent change in political leadership. 

So who's running this carnival which has left so many with so little with even less? One of the young men flushed from location to location has a serious eye infection which jeopardizes his eyesight, an injury linked in part to the caustic cleaning fluids used in heavy quantities near the group; the workers wear protection, but the people closest to the spray, which becomes an aerosol, have none. 

Mayor-elect Jesse Arreguin and a small committee ostensibly looked into, but did not recommend, two sites for possible campgrounds far from the city center near the freeways in districts one and two. But the logical site is exactly where First They Came for the Homeless set up camp in the first place years ago: near City Hall, where there are bathrooms, services, transportation, YMCA showers, library resources, and social service outreach groups. 

City Hall, in its flush of progressive victory, needs prodded now, not later, to stop wasting community resources, tens of thousands of dollars per raid, accomplishing nothing. The resolve of First They Came for the Homeless is as strong now as it was four years ago, if not stronger. 

To paraphrase Commissioner George Lippman, who joined me in the early morning human peace sign event and was willing to chat briefly about the ongoing human rights violations just around the corner, "it is always a good time to talk about human rights."