This week Knoxville police and city personnel began clearing out houseless camps near downtown. The Forge spoke with a member of the Knoxville Radical Alliance that has been working on these issues and witnessed some of what happened.
Q: What happened at the camp? About what time?
At the houseless encampment at Broadway and W Depot, the police and city crews have been removing individuals and their things. Showing up at least once a week for several weeks, these crews have cleared most of the lot. Using a tractor scoop and mechanical arm on a trailer, they removed personal possessions with as little as a 5 minute warning.
Q: Why do you think this happened?
The agenda on many of the elected liberals’ minds is cleaning up the city. It comes as no surprise that houseless folks would take this hit. They have been a continued target since they were confined to that lot by the no camping laws. We forced people to live in a slum with no walls, and then use their poor conditions as reasoning to evict them. Truthfully, this happened because we have discarded those people.
Q: In what way is this related to gentrification?
It’s inextricably related to gentrification. We have a process that simultaneously pushes working class people of color and working class people as a whole further and further away from the “nicer” areas. The Beautification process as it is called is a great example of that. I’m sure there are people far more educated on this than I am, though.
Q: What happened to the people that live there?
This is tale isn’t over. Some portion of the eviction isn’t complete yet. Over the next few weeks this process of violence will continue, just as it has been for quite a while. Those who have been evicted are in the process of finding a new home. Some of these people spent time in prison and are struggling from the tolls and marks left by our legal system’s inherent violence. Some of these people are former patients at the asylum that was shut down on Northshore Rd. Some of these people are just having a bad week. Where they will go from here is yet to be seen. There is no shelter that can take this many, there is no charity big enough.
Q: How can people help?
Since the evictions are going on still, there is a real need for continued documentation of the eviction process. If you are driving by or heading through to see friends and you see the police, pull over and record. We cannot let them shroud this in darkness.
Talk to your friends, family, and church. Talk to them about the violence this entails, and the immorality of it. Talk to them about possibly helping as well. When you have that group of people, get together and find other groups. Help raise money and buy food for people. Organize against gentrification by going to city council meetings and by talking to candidates and council members. If your neighbor is struggling, help them. If we are going to survive capitalism, we are going to need to do it together.