Solidarity with homeless in Chico a necessary step

The following letter appeared in the Chico Enterprise-Record on April 15, 2018:

Letter writer Rob Berry quotes my comments from the floor of the City Council in an effort to further his campaign against the homeless — and against those who stand in solidarity with them. However, Berry fails to cite the central message of my remarks, intended to highlight the ugly and hateful statements of Berry’s group.

At the March 20 council meeting, members of Chico First systematically and maliciously disparaged, demonized and dehumanized Chico’s homeless, referring to them as “vagrants,” a “criminal element,” a “problematic lot” and a “poison” to the community. The group even compared homeless people to wild animals and aliens from “Star Wars.” That exhibition was disgraceful.

The honorable solution to homelessness is housing and social services. Short of that, the next best thing concerned citizens can do is affirm the homeless by standing in solidarity in the public space (the only space they have) and to protest laws criminalizing poverty. Hiding the homeless in “navigation centers” or jails is a form of erasure and disempowerment — acts that carry the scent of authoritarianism, which should be of grave concern to those who cherish the Bill of Rights.

Lastly, I would like to note how overjoyed I was to read Berry’s description of my actions as nothing more than a “Power to the People” campaign. “All Power to the People” was the slogan of the Black Panther party. A greater compliment I cannot imagine. I can only hope my actions would have made Huey Newton and Bobby Seale proud.

— Robert C. Jones

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