Monroe Park meeting cancelled at last minute

The meeting scheduled for tonight at the Carillion in Byrd Park regarding the impact of the Monroe Park Occupation was cancelled. Several supporters of the occupation came out to witness and speak at this meeting while our friends and allies are still fighting to be released from lockup, but to our curiosity the meeting place was deserted.

We then learned via phone that the meeting was cancelled. And not only cancelled, but erased:

The City has released a statement denying a meeting at Dogwood Dell (see below), and CBS 6 has edited its story that included information about tonight’s meeting.  In fact, WTVR removed Charles Samuels from the story altogether.  It previously said, “City Councilman Charles Samuels is holding a 5 pm meeting at the Dogwood Dell in Byrd Park Thursday to discuss the potential impact.”

According to the city:

Councilman Samuels has scheduled no meetings tonight regarding Monroe Park

WHAT Contrary to any misleading information being distributed, Councilman Charles Samuels, Richmond City Council, North Central 2nd District, has no meeting scheduled tonight regarding Monroe Park.

CONTACT For more information, please contact Councilman Charles Samuels, at 804.646.6532 or by email, at charles.samuels@richmondgov.com

This seems a little too convenient, and par for the course as well for Charles Samuels. Samuels and the few pro-park gentrification supporters avoid direct communication and accountability to the public wherever possible. Perhaps this is because of his last public forum, wherein the foregone conclusion he drew from the public’s participation failed entirely to address the overwhelming sympathy of the attendees: that the park should stay open.

Despite Samuels’ inattendance, a speech was still delivered addressing Monroe Park and the Monroe Park Occupation. It went as follows:

__________________________________________

The Monroe Park occupation agreed that before any negotiations with the city government could occur the Richmond Police Department needed to immediately cease destroying Richmond’s homeless camps. This very basic concession, which any person with a heart knows to be reasonable and good, was one the city refused to bend on, and THAT is why the occupation in the park was bulldozed yesterday.

Busting up homeless camps involves identifying areas where homeless people set up tents and shelters, and, when they are abandoned during the day, entering them to collect and throw away all of those residents’ possessions found there. This is an inhumane activity that the police engage in even in the dead cold of winter, often enlisting as labor people performing “community service” hours. For many, arriving at a site where they depend on a meager bedroll to provide a modicum of warmth and dryness and find it absent -especially in snow and freezing rains- is tantamount to murder.

If the city government will not help its poor, it must at least strive not to harm them. The closing of Monroe Park, the removal of services from the downtown area, the aggressive expansion of VCU, the ever-expanding criminalization of poverty, homelessness, and mental illness, and the continual allocation of Richmond’s resources to upper class outsiders at the expense of actual Richmonders, its veterans and its poor, are all symptomatic of an attitude of careless disregard for human welfare and the lower class.

Because we are human beings with hearts in our chests, we MUST condemn Charles Samuels, the Richmond Police Department, and ALL parties of the city government responsible for these atrocities and tell them we WILL NOT stand for it.

These people do NOT represent us.
These people do NOT protect or serve us.
These people should NOT educate our youth.

Charles Samuels, you were winning because so far you have controlled the terms of the debate. We are reasonable people but with no avenue for open and public communication we are left with few options rather than to take our message to the streets. That is what we did when we occuped Monroe Park.

Your office gives you power: you may have crushed our structures, you may have jailed our friends, but you cannot keep those little truths under wraps forever.

We will continue fight until Richmond resembles the world we have built in our hearts.

I will continue to fight until my city is one I’m not ashamed to call HOME.

Thank you.

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