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.