Members of the Bloomington Police Department arrested a protester for trespassing after an 11 p.m. curfew in the park Tuesday, August 22, 2023.
Nearly a dozen protesters who are part of a mutual aid group, were in the park to demonstrate against the Bloomington Park Board’s recent vote to make pitching closed tents in city parks illegal during daytime hours.
The protesters began gathering in the park before 10 p.m. and discussed whether to stay and be arrested or to leave the park at closing time. A man who is unhoused thanked the group for their support and said just by being there they had shown their support. Only two members of the unhoused community remained in the park to protest but soon left as police swept the park after 11 p.m.
A protester who was talking to the police appeared to be escorted from the park but was soon placed under arrest, and put into cuffs before being taken to a squad car.
The arrest log on the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office app shows that a “John Doe,” aged 79 was arrested at 11:10 p.m. for criminal trespass, which is an A misdemeanor.
Before police showed up a woman expressed her disdain for the new tent ban, “If they think banning tents is going to make people go to a shelter, they are mistaken,” the woman said. She said she didn’t want to go to a shelter due to having to be there by 8 p.m.
Another person, who said they are unhoused, said stealing is common on the streets, but they didn’t want to go to a shelter. “It’s bad in this town,” the man said. “They’re good people, and they’ll give you the shirt off their backs, but they’ll also pickpocket you,” he said referring to other unhoused community members. Then he said he didn’t think people would have been kicked out of the park if it had been cleaner.
“It’s the same thing over and over,” said Pops Downham, who was unhoused in the past but currently has housing. Downham said he stays in touch with people in the park, but that many of them had passed away recently, including Travis Combs, who had health issues.
Downham said James “JT” Vanderberg had been dead for at least two hours before police discovered him dead on Christmas Eve 2020. Vanderberg froze to death on the sidewalk along Walnut after the city banned tents overnight in the park.
“It was colder than hell out here, like 20 degrees,” said Downham.
Mary Jane, who once lived in a tent in the park in 2020 has also died, along with others. Mary Jane had been housed but was evicted, and became unhoused.
Downham said a lot of people who sleep in the park in the tents during the day walk around the city at night until they are tired, then they fall asleep somewhere until either the police or someone else wakes them up and tells them to move along. Downham said now that the unhoused won’t have tents, and are also unable to sleep on sidewalks, he didn’t know what they would do.
“They need to go back and look at that law they just made, and really examine it, because this is bull,” said Downham, who said he is concerned the city is soon going to cleanse the entire city of any tents leaving the unhoused with nowhere to live or exist.
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