Protesters successfully slept in Monroe Park for a second night in a row on Tuesday. The group gathered across from Gladding Residence Center and consisted of anarchists, homeless people and others who are against the park’s proposed renovations.
The protesters say the plan would displace homeless people who not only hang out at the park but go there to receive food.
“This is the only place that the homeless have to congregate, the only place that there is enough space for all the feedings to happen on the weekends,” Leilani Combs, one of the protesters said. “They’re just going to continue to push them out of the city until there’s nowhere else for them to go.”
Freshman Marisha Downer, a psychology major, lives in GRC and said that although she hasn’t participated in the protests she has noticed them. She said the park is probably being renovated to make it more approachable to students and patrons. However, she said she’s never had a problem in the park and that the homeless people shouldn’t be affected by the renovations.
“They’ve been here before I’ve been here, so I think they should be able to stay here,” Downer said.
The Monroe Park Master Plan includes 6.2 million dollars in renovations that would add a café, kiosks and a carousel among other things. It would close the park for nine to 18 months.
Protesters said they will not leave the park until their demands are met which include keeping 25 to 50 percent of the park open and ceasing VCU’s involvement with the decision making and managing of the park.
“I think a lot of the push toward gentrification, renovation and revitalization has been to make parents of students feel more comfortable for sending their kids here,” Eric Scott, another protester said. “VCU is the city; it’s the moneymaker right now. They’re going to do everything that they can to protect that at the expense of Richmonders.”
Todd Woods, a member of the Monroe Park Advisory Council had the following to say about the protests.
“I have no comment except to wish them well and hope they don’t get too cold out there,” Woods said.
Some members of Food Not Bombs, which has been feeding homeless people in the park since the ‘90s and local anarchist group The Wingnut were also there. However, the protesters said there were no leaders or specific groups involved with the protests, just people fighting for the same cause.
Summer Orcutt, who recently began participating with Food Not Bombs, said a middle ground could be reached and that although changes like renovating the bathrooms and replacing lights were positive, others weren’t necessary.
“We’re not trying to just make people mad,” Orcutt said. “We’re trying to help our community.”
According to the city’s official site Monroe Park’s hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Police have not yet asked them to leave, but on Monday night they were asked to put their tent away, so they did, Scott said.