Homeless gearing up for protests
Transients planning nonviolent resistance over citations from GJ police
By EMILY ANDERSON
John Amartinez dug five tickets out of his wallet and flashed them at the crowd.
“I have more but they’re in another pocket,” he said.
Amartinez planned to plead not guilty to the tickets, one of many nonviolent protest methods discussed while he attended the inaugural meeting of Housing First! No
More Deaths! Tuesday morning in Whitman Park.
Amartinez said he got two of his seven tickets for trespassing while waiting for a cab in Whitman Park and for impeding traffic when a man offered him a bag of Chili Cheetos and Amartinez stepped into the street to take them.
“I’m not paying any of them because when they put me in jail, the city has to house me and pay for my food,” he said.
Decreasing the number of tickets given to homeless people, finding health care solutions for the impoverished and building a better relationship with the city and police were a few of the key goals outlined at the meeting. Jacob Richards, who helped organize the group, also suggested setting up a tent city in Whitman Park as a form of non-violent civil disobedience protesting the illegality of camping within city limits. Amartinez said setting up camp in the center of the city would help people avoid walking miles to the river or the homeless shelter at night. But meeting attendee Milton “Tony” Long said it would be a “mistake” because he wants to get along with the city of Grand Junction.
“Those City Council members put in some long hours. We can be friends,” he said.
George Rhoads used to be homeless but now lives in affordable housing. He feeds homeless people at 2:30 p.m. each Sunday in Whitman Park and has seen the number of lunch patrons grow from 60 a few years ago to nearly 200. He’s had friends die from alcohol poisoning or exposure, he said. Besides those few, though, Rhoads said many homeless take care of their own.
“I’m getting more and more homeless (at lunch) because they know we take care of our homeless here,” he said.
The next meeting of the group will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Whitman Park. Kat Dunham said no matter what the homeless do to make sure they are treated well by their peers and others, she is ready to speak out.
“Together we cannot be stopped,” she said.