MAY 2, 2020
ArchCity Defenders Statement Following the TRO Hearing on the Tent Encampment Communities in St. Louis City
Yesterday morning, on Friday, May 1, ArchCity Defenders filed a motion on behalf of our client, Renata Frank, for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the City of St. Louis from forcibly clearing the tent encampments directly across from City Hall along Market Street. Today, we learned that the judge denied the TRO.
As a result of this emergency litigation, and the mobilization and support of various groups and individuals that was required for this collective effort, the City has made a number of on-the-record guarantees as to how it will proceed. The City, through its lawyers, has stated:
– Individual hotel rooms will immediately be made available to every displaced person who wants one, along with taxi cabs to transport them to their hotel rooms;
– The City has no intention to issue citations or make arrests of unhoused residents of the tent encampments;
– COVID-19 testing will be provided to every person displaced from the encampments; and
– There are no plans to remove other tent encampments throughout the City, despite the language of the Health Director’s order encompassing
all City parks.
Several of these guarantees had not been offered at any point prior to the hearing on the TRO. The City must now be held to its promises.
In the two days between the time that officials from the Mayor’s office pinned notices to vacate on the tents in the Market Street encampments and the filing of the TRO on Friday morning, residents of the encampment were justifiably terrified that police would appear, as they had before, remove their personal belongings, remove the residents under threat of citation or arrest; and that they would have nowhere to go. People like our client, Ms. Frank, had been told repeatedly that there were no housing options available, that they were on waitlists, that the only alternatives were congregate settings that would not offer private space or social distance, or that the available options would require couples and families to voluntarily separate.
Now, as a result of this emergency litigation, people like Ms. Frank and other residents of the encampments standing up and resisting, committed outreach workers and volunteers on the ground, and everyday people demanding that the City treat unhoused people with dignity and compassion, there is a community that will be holding the City accountable for the promises that they have made. ArchCity Defenders will continue to work with this community to monitor progress and gather relevant evidence in advance of the preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for Tuesday, May 12.
We have been told that, during yesterday’s federal court argument, those in the encampments listened together over a loudspeaker as their case was heard. We are most proud that they know there are people standing with them and fighting for just and equitable treatment alongside them, and we will continue to do so.
For regular updates, find/follow us generally on social media @ArchCity Defenders, and Twitter as @archcitydefense. More on this specific thread can be found using #TentMissionSTL and #HomesNotHandcuffs.
Z Gorley, Communications Director, ArchCity Defenders