On the 20th of November, Mayor Bowser carried out her threat to begin DPW “cleanup” raids on homeless camps with an attack on the camp in Rock Creek Park near Va Ave. A trash truck, a box truck, and a shelter van were brought in, along with at least one police van for security. Recent Dept of Justice opinions opposing prosecution of the homeless may have deterred forcible removal, but it was clear that some belongings other than the tents were either being thrown in the trash or hauled away to a government warehouse. By 7PM, most of the tents were still standing, and it appeared that most residents had refused the Mayor’s demands to move to city-controlled shelters. The shelters are known for everything from metal detectors to bedbugs, and some refuse to use them.
In addition to the Dept of Justice legal opinion and recent court cases, another deterrent was the presence of news satellite trucks. Images of tents being dragged down and residents assaulted by police would have been bad for the Mayor’s image. A repeat of the violent Feb 2012 police raid on Occupy DC on the 11OPM news is not a good advertisement for her policies. Already housing and homelessness are two issues where most DC residents report holding a low opinion of the Mayor.The presence of multiple police cruisers “watching” the camp after the news trucks and the cleanup crews departed might be an attempt to intimidate people into leaving, or moving to the deep woods where yuppie commuters won’t see them but no underpass offers protection from rain, much less winter’s upcoming freezing rain and snow.
Mayor Bowser has publicly vowed to evict and shut down every homeless camp in DC, the sort of thing people used to expect from former Mayor Williams(known to some as Tony the Rat). Were is not for recent legal opinions that sleep is a requirement of life and that therefore sleeping outside cannot be criminalized, it is likely the Va Ave residents would have been arrested, forcibly moved to shelters, or simply driven off and dispersed. If people move into the deep woods, the Mayor and the Park Service will be unable to find camouflaged campsites, though anyone discovered by chance with this kind of privacy could be in great jeopardy of violent arrest and brutality.
Welcome Home-The Rise of Tent Cities in the United States (12MB):