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Akron homeless protest camping ban by pitching tent in public spaces

Posted at 5:29 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 17:42:24-04

AKRON, Ohio — Those without a home in Akron are pitching tents in public spaces to protest the city's camping ban.

At the intersection of North Case Avenue and East Market Street, drivers will see tents all over the Lest We Forget Memorial Park.

Homeless man Richard Grass is leading the protest, and calls this new pop up shop Secondhand Village. He lived in the former tent city before the city shut it down.

"This is my saving grace," he said.

Police made an appearance on Monday, and told Grass if he didn't pick up and go, he could be arrested for trespassing. Since that day, he has made shirts detailing the encounter that he's selling from the park.

If Grass is forced to move, he said he will continue to pitch his tent at public lots closer to City Hall.

"I just want to know where we can go to put up our tents and live peacefully," he said.

If someone is caught sleeping in a tent, even if a landowner agreed to it, Akron zoning officials still can enforce a de facto ban on camping, even though it's not in the city's charter.

According to a statement from city spokesperson Ellen Lander, they have received several complaints about those living in Lest We Forget Memorial Park. The city also said it issued violations for zoning, trash and trespassing on private property, at request of the owners.

As for the pop up tents, the city said they must be gone by May 19.

The former owner of the then-tent city Sage Lewis supports the protest, and is hopeful the city can have an open discussion about options for where these people can live.

“This isn’t a choice. They are not loving this. We need to talk about the fact that these people have no place to go, and what are we going to do about it? Where truly are these people supposed to go," he said.

Lewis will help relocate these tents to a lot near Dave's Supermarket a few blocks away from where Secondhand Village is now.