Editor’s Note: On Friday, September 29, over one hundred people gathered in front of Fresno City Hall to protest the implementation of the “Unhealthy and Hazardous Camping Act” that targets Fresno’s homeless. Our reporters were there that night and spoke to two of the protestors. Read below to hear what they had to say.
Inga Minton said that she came out to protest the ordinance because:
“It’s just unconscionable. It’s immortal. Unethical. And sick sick sick that people who have nothing, have no place to go.
My mother lives in town. She’s 86. She lived under Hitler in Austria, and she feels like what’s going on is Hitler all over again. And she’s right, if you compare it. So, we all have to stand up for this. I’m amazed there’s not more people here, but it’s something.”
Minton continued, “I think roaches are coming out of the woodwork now that this kind of administration is in office. People feel empowered and entitled to do things that are just – I don’t know, it’s just amazing. I had a white, young man in a pickup truck – I have a bunch of bumper stickers on my car like Black Lives Matter – and he spit in front of my car.
In this district we’re sitting in, it’s mostly blue. But the poor folks are the blue folks and they don’t vote. They feel totally disenfranchised. And now, people are starting to feel fearful even if they are a citizen. They’re just afraid. They are afraid, so they don’t vote.
Minton concluded, “As far as what I have to say to city council, it’s shame shame shame. How can you put that ‘In God We Trust’ underneath the city council sign and have no compassion?”
Desire Martinez, one of the organizers of the protest, said:
“How are you going to implement a law to jail people for not have a home without building housing first? I can understand if you have this big old village and you have 500 tents available and you went around this city and said, ‘Okay, come on you guys. Where are you going to go?’
If they literally had a place where their tent can stay and everything, then they would choose that. They would choose that option. You’re asking them to go down to an area where they have been traumatized repeatedly. We can not force somebody to go back to an area and re-traumatize them. The mayor wouldn’t do that to his daughter. Steve Brandau wouldn’t do that to his mom. So, why would you tell a person because they don’t have a home, ‘Oh, well, you have to go to that area. I don’t care if you’re a recovering drug addict. I don’t care if you’ve been raped. I don’t care if you’ve been stabbed. That’s the only area you get to go to.’
We’re messing up people’s minds and you wonder why they’re upset and why we have so much more mental illness out in the streets. It’s a bunch of crap. Give us housing first. Tent cities. Something. There’s so much land. So much empty, abandoned homes that the city owns. It’s all about housing and beds. If we had that, we wouldn’t have this issue right here.”
“Have you gone down to the Fresno Rescue Mission and ask them if you could see the ‘500 beds?’ Will they allow you to see them? That’s suspicious to me. Don’t go on the news and say you have something and not show anybody. Show me the 500 beds. Show me you have the capacity to house 1,500 people. Show me. I want to see.”
Martinez continued, “People need foundation. People don’t just need beds, they need their own place so they can feel human. You want them to get up and go to work? Well, give them a house, an apartment or studio so they can sleep all night, be safe, get up and take a shower, wash their clothes and go get a job. It doesn’t make any sense to tell somebody to get a fucking job when they stink, smell of urine and have had the same clothes on for a week or two. You can’t tell them that because they’ll go and try to get a job and they’ll be humiliated. They’ll be told to get out before they even walk in. So, where are they supposed to do?”
In response to the rumor that Council-member Steve Brandau was going to attend the protest, Martinez said, “Don’t come down here and show your face because you’re inciting a riot now. Because you just told everybody that homeless people are criminals and vagrants and just ‘the walking dead.’ So, I’m glad he didn’t come. He has a roof over his head, he gets paid way too much to sit on Twitter and do all this stuff and I think Mayor Lee Brand needs to do something about that. I know he voted for Trump, but come on. You got a mini Trump sitting right next to you and all this Twitter shit is BS. This is our city council. Are you serious? You’re sitting up there tweeting all this bullshit. You’re city council; you’re supposed to be my leader.”