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Chicagoans Blast 'Criminalization' Of Homeless People In Uptown Outside Alderman's Office

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 26, 2017 4:29PM

Several dozen people gathered outside the office of Ald. James Cappleman (46th) on Monday night to protest what they blasted as unfair treatment of homeless people and the acceleration of gentrification.

Led by Andy Thayer, of Tent City Organizers, the group demanded that homeless people who were displaced from the so-called tent city in Uptown be allowed a space where they can pitch their tents and live without fear of "harassment" and "criminalization" from law enforcement until permanent housing is secured.

Thayer told gatherers that homeless people in the past faced unfair treatment from police and called for "citywide punishment" of officers who improperly enforce the law. "They may be black, they may be poor, they may not be the kind of Lincoln Park neighbors [Cappleman] wants," Thayer said of the homeless people in the ward.

"This is going to drag you all the way to re-election day. Remember what happened to Anita Alvarez," Thayer said outside the ward office, in reference to the former Cook County State's Attorney who lost a re-election bid last year in the wake of the Laquan McDonald controversy.

Alan Mills, director of Uptown People's Law Center, also spoke in defense of housing rights. "Everyone here is a part of this community, whether you are housed or unhoused. It doesn't matter. You are this community... Developers are not this community. The people are this community," Mills told the group.

Homeless residents of the longstanding tent city beneath the Lake Shore Drive viaducts, at Wilson and Lawrence Avenues, were evicted last week ahead of scheduled bridge repairs and the installation of bike lanes where the encampment formerly stood. The encampment moved at least three times since its original displacement from beneath the viaduct, according to advocates.

One activist was arrested last week and charged with criminal trespass after they sat in a lot in the 4900 block of North Sheridan Road, where homeless people pitched tents and were then made to leave by police officers.

Chicagoist was not able to immediately reach Cappleman's office, but they said in part in a statement on Monday, according to Windy City Times, that, "Alderman Cappleman and the city's Department of Family and Support Services have been taking action to help those who had been living beneath the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts access food, shelter, mental health services, addiction treatment and medical care." The full statement is available here.