Why I Risked Getting Arrested Today

Why I Risked Getting Arrested Today
Dez Martinez (right) argues with City of Fresno staff person about the destruction of homeless peoples property, getting them a safe place to live and how outrageous it is to treat people this way.
This woman laid down in front of a Garbage truck to stop the demolition of tents and other structures.

The City of Fresno passed an ordinance to stop witnesses from observing the demolition of homeless encampments.  The ordinance that threatens to arrest witnesses went into effect on April 1, 2022 and this was the first test.  

As Community Alliance editor Eduardo Stanley and I arrived we could see that the police, bulldozers and garbage trucks had gathered at one end of the encampment.  We headed in that direction.  It didn’t take long before they dispatched into the field at 1725 W Nielsen (near highway 180 and Hughes ave).

Eduardo and I followed them in and started taking photos.  They gave the first homeless person 5 minutes to move out.  30 minutes later the city was still holding back before destroying the tent and anything else left behind.

As the demolition got into gear, so did some of the homeless and their advocates.  A line was formed, you could hear the emotionally charged yelling about the rights for everyone to have housing.  The advocates seemed to step back and about a dozen homeless people took over.  They stood in front of and sat down so the garbage trucks could not conduct their business.  

The city workers seemed to withdraw and began milling about.  They were likely waiting for the protesters to get tired, while the city crew took a break.  After all, these city workers get paid whether they are harassing the homeless or not.  This had been their tactic years ago when I went to just about every demolition by the city of homeless encampments.  Sometimes they would pull back and just wait the homeless out.  After 4 – 8 hours most of the hardcore protesters would be gone.  If not, the bulldozer would just come back the next day.

I left after covering this story for a couple of hours.  I don’t know the final outcome, but we will find out and let you know what happened.

It is important to cover the City of Fresno’s continued mistreatment of the homeless, to acknowledge when homeless people stand up for their rights and not be intimidated by ordinances that would limit our right to a free press.  Community Alliance staff will risk arrest to bring you important news about what is happening in this community.


Follow up:

I went back out to the scene of the crime at 4 p.m. to see what was new.  Almost the entire homeless encampment was leveled.  There were a few tents left, but I was told by reliable sources that the City plans to come back bright and early in the morning and finish the job – bulldozing the entire encampment.  Mary told me before the City crew left they told her they would find housing for all of the residents.  Mary said a list was made of the homeless that needed housing and promises were made by City officials to get them the housing they need.

A homeless man named Daniel had a different view of how this all was going to end.  He believes the City will put them on a list with thousands of people put on before today and that getting housing will take years, not days.

One thing was clear, the City of Fresno was pretty far along in their scorched earth policy.  Yes, there were a few people remaining on the land, but their time is limited and the offer of housing uncertain.

Before I left I gave Daniel my business card and told him to call me if the residents there don’t get immediate housing.  He said he would do that.

There are new photos below.

A mattress is put into the back of a garbage truck and hauled to the dump.
This woman stood in front of a City of Fresno garbage truck to stop them from destroying the encampment.
The Fresno Police Department were out in full force to ensure the demolition of the homeless encampment continued without interruption.
This is the notice the City of Fresno posted before bringing in bulldozers to destroy this homeless encampment.

New Photos from the afternoon:

Mary said she was hopeful with the offer of housing.
Daniel was not optimistic about his chances for getting housing and the social services he needs to get off the street.
This woman was saving her surfboard from the destruction that is sure to come tomorrow.
This is a good example of the homeless encampment after bulldozers came through today. What once was a thriving community now looks like this.
This is what most of the homeless encampment looked like at the end of the day.
Several tents had American flags displayed.  What a bitter irony that the country they love has let them down so completely.

These photos were taken the day before the demolition began:

This photo was taken the day before the demolition of this homeless encampment. All photos by Mike Rhodes.

Playing on some sort of musical device inside this structure was The Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd. The wind was blowing pretty strong, the music was a little eerie and spoke to the events that would unfold on the next day. They also compliment the letter below.

This letter was posted on the one portable toilet in the homeless encampment. The homeless themselves paid for the portable toilet. The City of Fresno chose to spend their money on bulldozers, a heavy police presence on the day of the demolition and garbage trucks to haul off homeless peoples property.

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the City of Fresno’s treatment of the homeless. You can read more here:





  • Mike Rhodes

    Mike Rhodes is the executive director of the Community Alliance, was the editor of this newspaper from 1998 to 2014 and the author of several books. Contact him at mikerhodes@fresnoalliance.com.

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