Protestors camping out in Monroe Park

By Evrod Cassimy - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond's Monroe Park is starting to look a lot more like a campground these days with tents popping up in the city park that is at the heart of the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.

A protest against improvements to Monroe Park. The group there plans to camp out all night until they get word that Monroe Park will stay friendly to Richmond's homeless population.

Monroe Park is a known place where the homeless congregate but recent talks about remodeling the area have sparked a protest. This group is camping out here, knowingly breaking the law, to save the place these homeless people sometimes live.

"Where are these people supposed to sleep? Where are they supposed to stay without being messed with? They don't get given another option," said protester Leilani Combs.

The group of self proclaimed hippies and anarchists have a list of demands on top of wanting to preserve the park. They plan to camp here until they're met sleeping in makeshift tents and using buckets and hand sanitizer to relieve themselves.

"We're hoping this will make a big enough dent attention-wise for people to realize there's no reason to close this park," said protestor, Anthony Gatto.

City council leaders have a 20 x 20 foot model of what they hope Monroe Park will one day look like. It's definitely an improvement but one that this group feels will run Richmond's homeless population out. While this group fight's in their favor, those who call this place home hope their efforts aren't in vain.

"If it works it's great!" said homeless man, Ronald Ragland. "I feel like something is going to trick us up but if it works it's going to be great!"

Today marks the seventh day most of this group has lived here. Some of them are homeless themselves. They plan to stay here as long as it takes but time is running out.

We spoke to Councilman Charles Samuels who represents this district. He's quite aware of the protest. In a written statement he says, "I will not tolerate or negotiate with those unwilling to work toward the common good.  Unreasonable demands and ridiculous rhetoric do not impress me."

City administrators are giving this group eight days to obey the law and not camp out in this park overnight. Samuels anticipates police will be enforcing this law soon.

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