On June 5 while protesters were camping in front of San Diego City Hall in solidarity with the Poor People’s Campaign, the San Diego police tried to intimidate the community activists by threatening citations and state violence against peaceful, non-violent demonstrators. Among the organizations participating were the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

San Diego, like the rest of California, is experiencing a great increase in homelessness and skyrocketing rents, leading to more people being forced to live in the streets or in other precarious situations. Instead of worrying about homeless people and renters at risk, the city unleashes its police to abuse the homeless, while refusing to provide real and permanent housing options. In 2018 alone, the official estimate is over 9,000 people in San Diego who are homeless. That may very well be an undercount, as the latest census did not even count people living in their vehicles.

The SDPD tried to limit the activists’ free speech on public property and threatened confiscation of and prevented distribution of supplies and donations. The police disturbed, harassed and berated us throughout the night. Organizers were joined by several community members, including a houseless man who had to be hospitalized due to chronic medical issues which hadn’t been properly addressed.

In the morning, when organizers continued in their non-violent sit-in to highlight the crisis of housing, SDPD arrested PPC organizer Aeiramique Blake. The SDPD stormed the protest and began confiscating supplies and donations, including tents, food, water and fresh fruit directly from the hands of a houseless community member. Another houseless community member who arrived with her two young children was using blankets and pillows donated by protesters to keep her 3-year-old daughter warm. Those donations were confiscated in front of the family while the children cried in this traumatic assault by the SDPD. The police threatened to arrest others.

Once the tents and supplies had been confiscated, organizers followed Blake as she was taken into custody while others spoke out against the brutal criminalization of homelessness in San Diego. They received support from bystanders and morning commuters. SDPD (including the chief, who had been called to the scene) further intimidated and harassed protesters. They threatened to issue another citation for violating a noise ordinance and initiated a verbal confrontation with organizers and protesters.

The organizers regrouped, ensured that the mother and children were directed to resources for help before ending the protest. We believe that the actions by SDPD reflect the city of San Diego’s attitude towards the issue of houselessness, and mirrors their historic mistreatment of our community.