Oakland shuts down encampment day after protest

Thursday, December 6, 2018

East Bay Times – By Ali Tadayon

OAKLAND —  Despite protests and a challenge in federal court, the city shut down an unauthorized East Oakland homeless encampment Thursday afternoon.

Public works crews and about a dozen police officers showed up around 1 p.m. Thursday to clear out the encampment and dismantle the structures on a city-owned lot on Edes and Elmhurst avenues. The city was supposed to close the encampment Wednesday morning, and had lined up shelter accommodations for its 15 residents, according to a city news release.

The city backed off Wednesday after the encampment residents refused to leave and about 40 people rallied in support of them.

The news release also said advocates for the residents had requested “a meeting with city officials, (which) city officials have been working to set up.”

The residents took that to mean that the city would not be moving forward with the closure until the meeting, and that there would be negotiation between the city and the residents regarding whether they could stay at the site. They were shocked when crews and police showed up Thursday afternoon to kick them out.

“It’s a flat-out betrayal,” said Osha Neumann of the East Bay Community Law Center.

City officials said they never agreed to engage in negotiations with the residents nor to offer to delay the closure.

The city issued a statement around 5:15 p.m. Thursday saying the closure of the encampment followed Oakland’s encampment management policy.

“The city fulfilled its obligation to offer residents shelter and took a compassionate, careful approach to match residents with their specific shelter needs,” city spokeswoman Autumn King said in the news release.

Nobody was arrested or cited during the closure, the news release said. The residents’ belongings will be stored for up to 90 days and they were told how to retrieve them.

Protesters showed up to the encampment Thursday after news broke of the closure. Some sat in front of the lot’s gate to stop city trucks from leaving after crews collected residents’ belongings. Police moved the protesters out of the way.

The city had tried to close the encampment last month, but were temporarily barred from doing so by a federal judge. Last week, the judge lifted the temporary restraining order, saying the city did in fact have the right to close the encampment since it was on city property, but that Oakland was obligated to provide shelter for the residents.

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