The Reno Police Department and city staff were at Pickett Park this cleaning up homeless encampments and offering the homeless resources in advance of a planned “citizens arrest” of the homeless at the park.
The RPD officer on the scene said that they were offering them assistance “to defuse a situation.”
There were no citations or mandates to move, RPD clarified this afternoon.
The situation: The Quality of Life (QOL-Reno) group announced its plan to arrest people at the park and detain them for violating city ordinances, as first reported by ThisisReno. That announcement sparked outrage online, and a counter-demonstration was quickly planned.
QOL-Reno, however, announced this morning that it was canceling its planned arrests, citing RPD’s actions as a success.
Homeless advocates criticized police.
“Why do we always defuse the situation at the expense of the most vulnerable?” asked Jennifer Cassady with the Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality.
J.D. Skinner, who arrived at the park this morning, at one point raised his voice at an RPD officer.
“I just found it pretty unfortunate that some seemingly rightwing organization is going to make a public post about doing citizens’ arrests tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. and there was a huge mobilization by the actual people of Reno to resist that and to make a stand against that,” he told ThisisReno. “It seems really unfortunate that what actually happened is, the day before…the City of Reno Police Department and the City of Reno came out here the day before all this stuff was supposed to happen and displaced these people before the right-wingers could actually do it.
“So tell me, who’s the one doing the bidding of the right-wingers? The police department, clearly. I’m sitting here right now fucking witnessing it. That’s not cool,” he added.
One woman, who had amassed a large amount of property at Pickett Park, had no place to go this morning. She also has a cat, which means she is unable to stay at the homeless shelter.
“It’s a community problem,” said Shelley Bellamy, who said she’s been living at the park for the past four months. “I’d say I have a spot for approximately four months. I could pay rent if it wasn’t so astronomical.”
Grant Denton with the Reno Ambassadors, and Councilmember Neoma Jardon, showed up to help Bellamy.
After a series of phone calls, they were able to secure a space for her belongings.
“Neoma got her a hotel room with the help of Fahrah Eels,” Denton said. “And I was able to get all of her belongings into storage with the help of the Reno works program.
“Ambassadors will be checking up on her three to four times daily. And our outreach specialist is working on finding her a more sustainable solution for her housing issues and mental illness management.”
Counter-event still on
Counter-protestors said the event is still scheduled for tomorrow.
“The response from the community is truly overwhelming and I am so proud this morning,” said one of the event organizers, Alex Alcantar. “Let’s make sure we use this opportunity to show kindness, thoughtfulness, and positivity. You all have created this. You all own this. You are all doing your community proud. Thank you.”
Organizers are also requesting donations:
“Those interested in the event will gather Saturday morning at Pickett Park to hand out bags filled with necessary supplies, hygiene products, clothing, food, and coffee (donated by Starbucks) to those in need at the park before organizing satellite deliveries to homeless communities around the Reno and Sparks area,” they said.
Just about everyone at the park expressed frustration with the situation.
CORRECTION: The Reno Police Department later today clarified that they did not kick out people from the park but rather offered them assistance to move.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.