As homeless rights activists continued a monthlong protest outside City Hall on Friday, top city officials held a news conference to promote the progress the region has made on tackling homelessness.
The protesters said they do not plan to stop their demonstration, even if police officers make good on a promise to dispose of their camping property. In addition, another video has been posted on YouTube about the standoff between the homeless and the city from those who purport to be from the hacker group Anonymous.
In the video, a computer-generated voice asks people to complain to officials about Sacramento’s ban on urban camping.
Meanwhile, four members of the City Council, top police officials and homeless service providers said the issue of addressing homelessness is much broader than allowing the homeless to camp on city streets. City officials repeated their stance that the illegal camping ordinance will not be repealed, arguing it’s a matter of public health.
“We can’t allow people to camp in alleys, to urinate and defecate wherever they want,” said Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the central city. “We want to solve the problem (of homelessness), but we have to maintain the peace.”
On Jan. 2, about 40 officers converged on the downtown government complex in a predawn operation to enforce a city ordinance that prohibits the homeless and others from urban camping. In the days since, police said they have made nine arrests and cited three others outside City Hall on a variety of charges, including illegal camping, resisting arrest and probation violations.
In addition, homeless services organization Sacramento Steps Forward said it has talked with 61 people outside City Hall since Dec. 8. Of those, 37 have been placed on lists for permanent housing. However, 12 refused shelter.
Sacramento officials said they would maintain their strategy of focusing on finding permanent housing for the homeless.
“We’ve had a lot of success,” said Councilman Rick Jennings. “But clearly, we need to do more.”
The campers outside City Hall sought to connect their demonstration to Anonymous. Two protesters were seen wearing Guy Fawkes masks, the trademark of the Anonymous movement. The mask is designed to resemble Fawkes, a member of a gang who plotted to blow up the House of Lords in England in 1605. Protest organizers also provided a link to the latest Anonymous video in a press release Friday.
A video from Anonymous posted earlier in the week threatened to target the city of Sacramento if it doesn’t suspend its ban on urban camping.
Asked if police were investigating the connection between the videos and protesters, police spokeswoman Officer Traci Trapani said she could not comment because any tie between Anonymous and the homeless might be part of an investigation.