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Bloomington Bypassing Park Policy For ‘Occupy’ Protestors

Many of the of the city's homeless wonder why protesters are allowed in the park overnight, when the homeless have been run out of the park at night for years.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired demonstrations across the county, including Columbus, Terre Haute, and Bloomington. While protests in some larger cities have been met with opposition from local municipalities, the city of Bloomington is actually making an exception to its own rules to accommodate the protesters.

On a normal day in downtown Bloomington, many of the city’s homeless population occupy People’s Park. Recently though, the park regulars have had some company from people participating in the Occupy Bloomington movement.

While many of the homeless who are staying in the park say they do not mind their visitors, it is causing some, like Nancy, who has been homeless for decades now, to wonder why the city allows the protesters to sleep in the park overnight, when the homeless have been run out of the park at night for years.

“We’ve all been here, I’ve been here for 45 years in this town, and this park,” she says. “If this was just the locals doing this, the cops would have done run us out, which I don’t think is right.”

According to Bloomington Parks and Recreation Director Mick Renneisen, a policy does prohibit sleeping in city parks overnight, but says since it is not an ordinance. The city has some leeway in enforcing it.

“It’s just a day by day situation,” he says. “They are violating park policy, but we are exhibiting some discretion of this particular case.”

One organizer of the demonstration says she and others have been working with the park workers to ensure the facilities are maintained and kept clean.

Dan Goldblatt

Dan Goldblatt is the Multi-media Producer for WFIU/WTIU News. A graduate of Indiana University, he studied journalism and anthropology. He currently lives in Bloomington with his cat, June Carter.

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  • anon

    The difference, is that in bloomington, the homeless are a huge problem, whereas the occupiers are protesting against a bigger problem. There are a ton of shelters and missions in bloomington and southern indiana designed to help people who frequent the park as homeless citizens, but many of them refuse to do so for various reasons (I’ve worked as a social worker so I’m talking from experience) that include not wanting to correct various drug dependencies or simply not trusting “the man” as they put it. Comparing the two is invalid on several levels.

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