Last week two people were arrested during the first night that Occupy Kalamazoo members and local homeless people camped out at “Compassion Park” the name they gave their encampment at Bronson Park.
One of the people arrested was Chris Wahmhoff, an organizer for Occupy Kalamazoo. Wahmhoff was arrested for allegedly violating a city ordinance that prohibits sleeping between the hours of 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. in city parks and public places.
As most Americans and the rest of the nation remember today as the anniversary of the horrific tragedy that wounded our nation, a war of poverty, marginalization and homelessness is raging in Kalamazoo County, specifically, Kalamazoo, MI, known as the sixth meanest city in the country toward homeless people. According to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless released in July 2009.
The eve and into the morning anniversary of 9/11, Chris Wahmhoff is arrested a second time for civil disobedience, again for allegedly violating the city’s ordinance on sleeping in city parks and public places. A another local media outlet came out to interview Wahmoff, but as we know most news stories, especially taped interviews are at the mercy of the “digital blade” controlled by the producer. We only get to hear a “piece” of the interview, possibly leaving out information that could be important as an informed community member.
The numbers my have been few that were able to support Occupy Kalamazoo, there were thousands in Michigan and across the world, via Facebook and other social media outlets that should their solidarity to the Occupy Movement.
Chris has become a “disobedient hero” in my humble opinion because the threat of arrest does not weaken his spirit or motivation. As an observer and supporter of the Occupy Movement, there are many issues that need to be addressed and Chris has the passion and resilience to fight the fight for those that are not able to.
So the questions are, if we have organizations within the our community to provide shelter to those individuals that are homeless, where do the others go when the organizations reach capacity? The first encampment of Compassion Park, there were homeless couples and individuals in the park as well as a family that had children camped out in the park. So is Kalamazoo now the meanest city to children that are homeless. I can’t speak to what the circumstances of the family in the park with the children, but this is the night before the first day of school. We can either assume the family has no family and friends that could help in the short run, the shelters were full to capacity or the family did not seek shelter.
I only hope since they were not present at the second encampment at Bronson Park, that they were able to obtain housing. A friend of mine asked, “What is the point of the encampment when we should be focused on the election”. My response to that was, election time is ideal for bringing notice to these issues when citizens are more politically minded. Homeless people and or families have stories and deserve no less dignity than those of us with an official residence.
The Occupy Movement may have lost some of it momentum but is still going strong without the media spotlight. Chris Wahmhoff and Occupy supportors are the disobedient heroes who refuse to let the urgency of homelessness to became a mainstream media afterthought.