Mayor’s Office Says Will Not “Clear” Encampments During COVID Emergency, But Tries to Say They Can Still Enforce the Survival Ban

Mayor’s Office Says Will Not “Clear” Encampments During COVID Emergency, But Tries to Say They Can Still Enforce the Survival Ban

Displacement is displacement under any name.

On Tuesday evening March 24th, after a demand letter was sent to the Mayor in the morning from District 9 and a long list of other elected officials and community organizations, the Mayor’s office told the media that they “have continued to clean encampment areas but we are not clearing them during this public health situation.” Since the city has tried to avoid using the word “sweep” referring to their practice of displacing people and property at encampments and instead used the word “clean ups,” we followed up with the Mayor’s office to seek clarity on this statement. We asked, “when you say not “clearing” camps does this mean no one or their property will be displaced from that location?” The answer from the Mayor’s office was “Correct.” 

Otherwise put, the Mayor’s office has said they will not be displacing people or their property at encampments during this COVID emergency. 

However, the Mayor’s office is also trying to act like they can somehow still enforce the survival ban at the same time. In another media interview the Mayor’s office said, “the city wasn’t reconsidering enforcing the camping ban.” The statement that they will not be displacing people or their property during this emergency, and the statement that they will continue to enforce the camping ban, cannot coexist. Enforcing the camping ban, by its very nature, displaces people and their property. 

The only way the city could enforce the ban and not displace people or their property would be to give people attainable housing they can move into now and stay in permanently. The city still does not have any plan to provide housing for all who are without during this crisis or beyond.

We will be holding the city to the statement that they will not be displacing people or their property at encampments during this COVID emergency. If the city sends police to displace people from public property – whether it be under the camping ban or under what the city calls “clean ups” or under any other law – we will be holding them to this promise to not displace our community during this pandemic.  

Furthermore, in spite of the CDC’s guidance on providing sanitation resources instead of sweeping encampments, the Mayor’s office made no commitments to provide the needed porta-lets or handwashing stations to encampments. These sanitation resources are always needed, but especially now they must be provided directly at encampments. We will continue to demand the Mayor’s office follow through on this need in accordance with the CDC guidelines. 

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