Activists On How To Sustain Movement Against Police Brutality


Cove in 19 crisis has not just been a health crisis. It's been an economic crisis to and as economic crises arise, so it is unemployment and homelessness. In the years following the 2008 economic collapse, major cities saw a dramatic rise in the number of people experiencing homelessness. And now amid the Koven 19 pandemic, we're seeing a rising rate of addictions, according to the eviction lab in 17 cities that they tracked there have been more than 53,000 eviction since the pandemic began. Results, not just homeless men on the street, but Children living in shelters, families living in their cars and Wal Mart parking lots. People crowding into friends or relatives shared rooms this period of time since the Koven 19 pandemic hasn't just exacerbated the problem. It's also Given rise to a kind of grassroots activism against it. Earlier this year amid the national uprisings for racial justice against police brutality, anti homelessness activists have been playing an increasingly public role. In cities like Minneapolis in Philadelphia, activists have established homeless encampments and protected them from law enforcement sweeps that displaced the camps. I'm joined now by Will James, reporter with Can k X public radio in Washington and host of the Outsiders podcast about homelessness in Olympia. Great to have you here? Well, yeah. Hey, Matt, thanks and were also on the line with Anna or so a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer who has been reporting on a homeless encampment slash protest in center city, Philadelphia. Anna. Thanks for joining us. Hey, thanks for having me your welcome. So, guys, let's start with you. Will you've been following the homes this crisis throughout the West Coast? Can you just give us a picture to start of what This crisis looked like before the pandemic. It Yeah. So, you know, just take Washington State, for example. You know, we have an estimated 21,000 people who are homeless in Washington state. And on the West Coast. What kind of distinguishes the West Coast from the East Coast when it comes to homeless is thie proportion of people who are homeless who are living outside who are unsheltered who are living in tents in the woods and on the sides of highways? By some accounts, you know all the numbers and homelessness are a little bit shaky, very hard to get a solid number on them. But as many as two thirds of people who are unsheltered and homeless in the United States live in California, Oregon and Washington, so homelessness has been very visible crisis impossible to ignore in the West Coast, vast encampments of people living in city downtown's and in parks and before a coven 19 homelessness was the front and center issue. In so many West Coast cities. He was getting a lot of attention. There was a ton of advocacy it was, you know, in every City Council meeting every county council meeting now homelessness is one of many emergencies that states and cities and counties they're dealing with. And so We're seeing advocates fighting for attention for this issue in a way that that really hasn't been necessary in past years. How are they fighting for attention House out? What does that look like? It looks like kind of trying to use the media show up at City Council meetings and government meetings and just kind of reminding people in power that Even though there are so many crises that we're dealing with right now, this homelessness emergency hasn't gone away. In fact, much of the West Coast, many of the cities on the West Coast were in an official state of emergency around homelessness before this began, and so cove in 19 is actually you know, a state of emergency on top of a state of emergency in many of these cities. Well, Ana tell us what's going on in Philly. There have been a couple of homeless encampments around for months. But they apparently double is protest movements. Right? Can you explain a bit about what these look like? And what they're like? Yeah, you know, for Philadelphia. It's sort of a new and unique structure. We have had encampments of homeless folks for several years now that I have grown in size and in prominence, and the city has, you know, swept them cleared them out, and then people scatter and eventually re gather somewhere else. Now in the past couple of years, they've really been concentrated in the city's Kensington neighborhood. Which is a couple of miles away from center city, and from where you know, media and politicians sort of do their everyday work. Now the largest encampment of homeless folks, which was organized in June by affordable housing advocates, is on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is a very prominent space sort of in the middle of the city. It's where the famous art museum is located. It's surrounded by luxury condos. And it's really in a place that is impossible to ignore. And so we now have this interesting confluence of the racial justice movement mixed with the movement for affordable housing for people living in homelessness. And so it's presenting the city with this really new and interesting challenge because they just can't handle This encampment like they have others in the past. Are they making a connection between racial justice, the black lives matter, Movements and homeless activism. Are they making a connection there? Very much so thie Encampment was established two weeks into You know the racial justice protests here in Philadelphia, and it was immediately tied to black lives matter. The activists connect the criminal justice system and policing systems. With poverty and homelessness. There are a lot of black men and women who are living in this homeless encampment who have been in and out of the sister criminal justice system almost all of their lives and The organizers of this encampment are saying, Look, this is all connected. If we reform our policing systems to stop just proportionately impacting black people in Philadelphia, we can make a you know a real change in what poverty and homelessness looks like in this city if we can get people into housing, rather than putting them in temporary shelters or sending them back out onto the streets where, whereas the activists say Homelessness could be criminalized in a variety of ways. Whether that's folks being charged for substance used public drunk in this, the like these systems really are sort of inextricably linked. And how is the city handling this? Are they allowing this homeless encampment to just stay in the center of town? I understand is also a a second one near the Philadelphia Housing Authority's office. I imagine these folks can't stay living there and intense and whatnot for then, you know, indefinitely. Yeah. You know, it's been interesting. The city has given several eviction notices A TTE this point for both encampments. You're right. There is a smaller encampment in north Philadelphia outside. The Housing Authority, which runs public housing in the city. But so far the people living there, and the activists running these encampments have resisted thes eviction notices in a variety of ways. A couple months ago, there was a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the encampment. Residents, claiming their first Amendment right to protest was was being violated. And several weeks ago, the city put out a final eviction notice and Went, outreach workers and police showed up early one morning. At seven o'clock. There were dozens of activists who had gathered to defend the camps with sticks, boogie boards, makeshift shields, and it just was very clear that That a sweep of the encampment was going to be really ugly on DH. There was a ton of media there Tio to capture what occur so outreach workers and police sort of stepped back and No eviction has taken place yet. You know the city and the activists are are still sort of negotiating. Will

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