This article was published on our friend’s website- http://www.richmondspark.wordpress.com

One of the main issues of the Monroe Park Occupation (www.monroeparkoccupation.wordpress.com) was the policy of the Richmond Police Department of destroying homeless camps and all of the belongings of homeless people with no notice. This policy has been an ongoing reality for people who are homeless in Richmond. In recent months, many camps have been destroyed by the Richmond police and by people doing court forced “community service” for the 4th precinct. Anyone interested in working on this issue should get in touch with the Wingnut Anarchist Collective. Destroying homeless camps and homeless people’s belongings is nothing short of class war, inhumane treatment, robbery, property destruction, and in many cases, attempted murder.

Here is the article:

ACLU Files FOIA Request Regarding VDOT Policies on Homeless, Litigation a Possibility

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the VA Department of Transportation (VDOT). The ACLU wants information regarding the policies of handling and destroying the possessions of homeless people who live on the land owned by VDOT.

Last month a company contracted by the Virginia Department of Transportation demolished a homeless encampment near Interstate 81 at Exit 315 near Winchester. At least four homeless men were using the property for months when the contracted company destroyed their camp and belongings.

The men lost tents, sleeping bags, clothes, food, medication, and other camping gear. One of the homeless men lost his wallet which contained his Social Security Card and birth certificate. No advance notice about the removal of their possessions was given.

In the past, the courts have stated that the constitutional rights of homeless people still applies while they are on state property.

“Federal courts have consistently ruled that homeless persons have an expectation of privacy that includes the right to be notified before their property can be seized or destroyed,” said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia.

Willis said that litigation is a possibility, and that the goal of the ACLU is to make VDOT compensate the men for the loss of their things and ensure it will never happen again.

A federal court ruled in the Pottinger v. City of Miami case of 1992 that homeless people have a right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment, including the right to not have their possessions illegally seized from public places. A court in Alaska recently decided that five days notice before the seizure of homeless people’s possessions is too short of a period.

This is a result of a system that values housing as a commodity and a privilege instead of a human right, a system that dehumanizes the poor, and that system is capitalism.

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