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Michael Nugent, unhoused, is being evicted - again
If he refuses to leave, Michael faces arrest...
The Administration of Providence Mayor Brett Smiley is continuing its cruel policy of evicting unhoused people from public property without first ensuring that the evicted person has a safe environment to land in. On Wednesday, September 27th, at 11 a.m., an officer with the Providence Police Department approached Michael Nugent, who has set up camp, and panhandles, at the Orms Street Route 95 overpass.
The officer, who Nugent said was a supervisor, not a rank-and-file patrol officer, handed him an eviction notice on official City of Providence stationery with the names of Mayor Brett Smiley and Chief of Police Oscar Perez at the top. The notice ordered Nugent to vacate the area and take all his belongings within 48 hours, that is, by tomorrow, Friday, September 29, 2023, at 11 a.m. If he refuses to leave, Michael faces arrest.
"We ask that you remove your property and personal belongings by the above date and time. Abandoned property, property deemed hazardous, and debris remaining at this location will be removed by the City of Providence after the above date and time."
Any property not removed will be destroyed, or stored for a short time and then destroyed.
“You understand what this is, right?” Michael asked me today when I visited him. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that no man shall be deprived of his property. It's worldwide.”
Michael Nugent sees his status as an unhoused person as a form of political protest and the raid on his encampment as illegal. he has been unhoused for over four years. While unhoused, Michael has been evicted from locations in Woonsocket, Pawtucket, and Providence, many, many times. Last year Michael began the Rhode Island State House encampment that was evicted by Governor Daniel McKee one week before Christmas. I interviewed Michael shortly after he started camping at the State House over a year ago.
As part of the Governor's effort to evict those camping on State House grounds, Nugent was arrested just before the court hearing held to decide the future of his encampment and released shortly after the encampment was cleared and all his belongings were destroyed and thrown into the trash.
Following the pattern set by Governor McKee's violent example, Mayors throughout the state have evicted encampments with impunity. In August, catering to the whims of right-wing media, Mayor Smiley raided the Charles Street encampment. Of the 40 people in that encampment, less than four were placed in a better situation. The rest were simply dispersed, their possessions bulldozed and thrown into the trash.
A comment from the Smiley Administration was not received in time for this story.
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Hoping to avoid the specter of more raids and evictions of unhoused people, Professor Eric Hirsch and members of the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project (RIHAP) had scheduled a meeting with Providence Police Chief Oscar Perez last week, but the Chief asked to reschedule at the 11th hour.
At that meeting, the members of RIHAP were going to ask for the following policies to be adopted by the Providence Police Department:
The decision to go to shelter or housing must be made by those in the encampment. The city should not be engaged in forcing people into shelters.
Stop making false statements about how all those in the encampment are being offered humane alternatives to tents when the raids occur.
Stop harassment designed to force people out of the encampment before the raid, such as forcing people out of their tents to give their names and birthdates.
Stop the use of police dogs to make an arrest. It is not only the person being arrested who is affected by this.
There should never be an arrest or a search without the relevant warrants.
The way people are being treated when encampments are cleared is a human rights issue. Respect the Homeless Bill of Rights provisions on the right to equal treatment by police, the right to privacy for people in encampments, and their private property rights.
Stop harassment and arrests of people experiencing homelessness in public spaces such as Kennedy Plaza. Implement harm reduction and not arrests and incarceration for drug users.
RIHAP agreed to the rescheduling but insisted that no more encampments should be cleared until they have had a chance to bring their concerns to the table.
“The Chief did not respond to that request and obviously they are ignoring that and they're going ahead with the raid against Michael,” said Professor Hirsch. “The Chief agreed to meet to talk about how they do these raids, and now, without hearing our concerns, the raids are continuing.
“What we're asking for is an alternative to the tents that people find themselves in,” said Professor Hirsch. “After an encampment is raided the city gives people literally nothing.”
RIHAP and other homeless advocates will be holding a protest at the Providence City Hall on Wednesday, October 4th at 3 p.m. to demand a set of more compassionate policies around encampments.
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