On the ground in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Parcel 42 tent city occupants ordered to clear out

September 28, 2010 - 04:51 PM
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Parcel 42 tent city
Notices were posted at Parcel 42 in Shaw that the city intends to remove what remains of the tent city protest. (Photo: TBD Staff)

The D.C. government has issued an order to clear out the remaining tents, personal belongings and debris from Parcel 42, a city-owned vacant lot at the corner of Rhode Island Ave. and 7th Street NW.

"The District of Columbia government will conduct a general clean-up of this area between 9/22/2010 and 10/6/2010," read notices posted at the site, along with instructions for how to claim any property deemed to be "considered valuable," which the city would store for 45 days following their removal.

The decision comes more than two months after protesters first occupied the plot of land. The non-profit ONE DC originally organized a tent city there in an attempt to draw attention to a proposal to reduce the amount of low-income housing planned for the site. Due to financing issues, developers had proposed reducing the size of the Parcel 42 project from eight floors to five, providing only about half of the number of affordable apartments that had originally been planned.

But ONE DC retreated from the protest on July 15, and since then, a small handful of homeless individuals have remained in the tent city off and on.

A homeless activist who goes only by Avatar has since taken up the cause of organizing those who remain. He estimates that anywhere between two and six people are living at Parcel 42 on a given day.

"This is a political act," Avatar says. "It's not really squatting in that sense."

A handful of tents, including a wood-framed structure with tables and chairs inside it in the middle of the parcel, remain at the site. There's also a make-shift stage in the southwest corner, and a number of signs and posters declaring the intent of the tent city to liberate the land.

Avatar, who's originally from India, came to D.C. from New York only a couple of months ago and got involved with the tent city after working to recruit homeless individuals to join an anti-war protest. He says no one from the city has spoken to him about the order to move, and he's concerned about the wording of the posted signs.

"It's not expressed as an eviction of human beings, but as a general clean-up of the land," he notes. "It may be worded as a clearing of things, but it amounts to an eviction of people."

He and fellow homeless advocate Eric Sheptock say they are calling for a meeting of the tent city residents at 9 p.m. tonight to discuss what they will do when the garbage trucks arrive. The D.C. Department of Public Works is the city agency that would be tasked with the removal, though the signs also list phone numbers for the Department of Human Services and the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

TBD has requested clarification from the city on exactly which agency ordered the removal and how and when it would be carried out. We'll update as soon as we know more.

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