At about 10:00/10:30am Thursday July 10, I got a call from Tim Green. He had just gotten word that backhoes, MDOT personnel and the Ann Arbor Police were moving along the river behind the Gandy Dancer towards the bridges. People were being told they had get out or they would be arrested, leaving them no time to collect belongings. Folks were asking for our support. Tim and Ryan Sample were headed down on the bus. Chris McKeown, Tracy Williams and I headed down in Tracy's truck and arrived first.
By the time we got there the Ann Arbor police had already left. We quickly began gathering information: talking to campers and various MDOT workers. We learned that the city and MDOT were working in partnership to evict and contrary to what we had been told earlier campers were not safe from eviction even if well beyond the required 50 feet from the tracks and well hidden. We were told everything from the Gandy Dancer up to and including "the first 2 bridges" were being evicted and those along the tracks would be clear cut.
Chris went to spread the word to everyone still at or near their tents, and Tracy and I headed to get his truck from where it was parked to help salvage and transport as much as possible. Two MDOT workers told us each independently "You can't bring the truck over the tracks here, and I can not give you permission to bring it in where we bring ours in -- down off Lake Shore Drive just before it turns to the park." Appreciating the tip we were headed that way when Tim and Ryan arrived.
Talking to Mat and Danielle, campers we know well, we learned that they had been given 10 minutes to get out or get arrested. They attempted to negotiate for more time to pack up their stuff, but were only able to grab a small back pack and Mat's guitar before watching their home and most all their possessions bulldozed.
A quick consensus decision of those camping was to move as much stuff as possible to the meadow in Broadway Park - out of the backhoes’ path. This would allow us to salvage as much as possible. From there campers could decide what they wanted to do and what support they needed from us. Tim, Ryan, Tracy, Chris and myself helped folks pack up and carry their stuff, take down tents etc. Ryan also took photos documenting what happened.
All of us had also been sending email and text messages and posting things on facebook looking for more folks to help and to get the word out about what was happening. About an hour after we initially arrived Lindsay Conrad from First Presbyterian showed up. A frequent guest at the bridge camps she knows many of the folks there, and offered pastoral support as well as some possible storage.
About the same time she arrived MLive also appeared on the scene as did Brian Durrance, bringing with him council Member Sabra Briere. Bill Birdsall also came by to help. Campers and Misfit and MISSION supporters spent close to an hour talking to her. She listened and was resolute in the fact that there is nothing she can do. She continuously stated things like "there is no legal place for you to go" and "There are no options."
At some point in here one officer from the Ann Arbor police arrived just to be sure the loud voices weren't threatening ones. But he only stayed about 15 minutes.
After Sabra left we piled the vast majority of stuff into Tracy's truck and drove it and a group of campers out to a new site. Tim and Chris left a few minutes ahead of us with Brian and they met us at the new site with shovels, rakes, and other tools for clearing out spaces for tents. We helped folks clear out a bit at the new site.There was one individual, Tony, who chose not to come with us. He had another site in mind. Seth Best, Tony Galofre, and Lynn McLaughlin arrived shortly after we left and helped him do what he wanted.
Heading home we got a call from Fox 2 news Detroit so we turned around, rounded up those that had camped there and went to talk to the news.
Afterwards, we dropped off tents, and sleeping bags off to Mat, Danielle and another couple who had lost all their stuff when camps were destroyed.
There is more work to be done as we expect more action from MDOT and the City. Please stay tuned!
In the meantime, please join us on Tuesday July 15 at 7pm at St. Clare’s/ Temple Beth Emeth for an Ann Arbor Mayoral Forum on Homelessness and Housing. The address is 2309 Packard St, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104. We look forward to seeing you there.
We are also, of course, in need of tents, sleeping bags, blankets, and anything one might need for camping outside: water, batteries, flashlights, garbage bags
To coordinate donations please contact Tim Green at 734-985-1842 or firstname.lastname@example.org