Anti-Sweeps Crusaders Seek Justice

by Alex Grabtree

            On Tuesday March 14, the five Anti-Sweeps Crusaders will have their final pre-trial hearing before a trial for trespassing on a public park. All five pled not guilty and representatives of the Cleveland Bar Association and a couple of private attorneys have volunteered to help represent the protesters. All five, Dave Campbell, Edward Lauriano, Pam Wagner, Elena Tootell, and William Beemer pled not guilty and will be tried together in March before Judge Keogh in Cleveland Municipal Court.

            On Wednesday evening December 22, Food Not Bombs and Rosewater 2000 organized a demonstration on Public Square to alert holiday shoppers of the plight of many of Cleveland’s homeless population. They were arrested by what the protesters characterized as the single largest show of force ever mounted against 15 sleeping citizens. [See related story, “The Day Homeless People Struck Back,” this issue.]

            Food Not Bombs feeds homeless people every Sunday afternoon on Public Square, and were angry over the mayor’s policy to target their friends from the streets.

            Rosewater 2000 is a loosely organized band of homeless people dedicated to locating and liberating abandoned buildings and turning them over to their citizens forced onto the street.

            With the weather turning bitterly cold, they were concerned that homeless people would be exiled from the warm sidewalks and die. With this emergency situation, they took action to prevent any loss of life. They peaceably gathered on the southwest corner of Public Square away from pedestrian traffic to call attention to the criminalization of homeless people taking place.

            Protesters spent ten hours carrying signs, ministering to homeless people, and asking holiday shoppers for support in stopping the sweeps. At 3 a.m., the mayor used his authority to rain down on the sleeping protesters at least 70 police, fire, and city sanitation employees. The police officers told the demonstrators to leave the area immediately or face arrest. The three men and two women chose to go to jail. Within 20 minutes all traces of the protest were swept away.

            Dave Campbell, a spokesperson for Rosewater 200, said, “We were exercising our right to protest and that was stopped by Mayor White as he looked down from his ivory tower in the second floor of the Renaissance Hotel. Thankfully, Mayor White was not the Mayor of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago or the entire history of mankind would be different. Joseph and Mary would have been in jail for sleeping outside.”

            The case has attracted a great deal of media attention, and the mayor has had a keen interest in the protest. White was captured by a Fox 8 television news cameraman leading the arrest of the protestors. The five do not anticipate the City settling this case in light of the mayor having to stay up to 3 a.m. to kill this protest.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine, Issue #40, February 2000