BY EVERYNIGHT CHARLEY CRESPO | Sunday morning, as some parishioners were leaving St. Brigid-St Emeric Church and other worshippers were arriving at Trinity Lutheran Church, they witnessed 14 police officers evicting a man out of a pup tent alongside Tompkins Square Park on Avenue B between E. Eighth and E. Ninth Streets.
Witnesses said they saw the police remove the man from his tent and put him into a police van, and that he appeared to be handcuffed.
A police spokesperson told The Village Sun that the individual was Johnny Grima, a 37-year-old homeless man. Grima was charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, and erecting a tent on a city sidewalk, a violation.
Grima has been previously arrested in the area on similar charges, including as recently as this past Wed., May 4, when he was cuffed nearby on E. Ninth Street on what has been dubbed “Anarchy Row.”
Sunday morning, observers shouted in protest as gloved police officers collected Grima’s belongings and stuffed them into large plastic bags. The police did not respond to the bystanders, who scolded them that what they were doing was wrong. Moments later, Department of Sanitation employees standing by with a truck cleared the area.
As the Adams adminitration continues its policy of removing homeless encampments in public spaces and trying to direct the individuals to Safe Haven-style shelters, the East Village and particularly Avenue B has become a repeated target. “Anarchy Row” has been a flashpoint as cops have cleared out an enacampment there more than once.
This time, though, this was not what one might call a full-blown encampment. This was one man inside one pup tent.
The police spokesperson said members of the New York Police Department’s Legal Unit and TARU (Technical Assistance Response Unit) were on the scene during the clearing of Grima’s tent and his arrest, as well as Chief McGuinness and Deputy Inspector Ralph Clement, the commanding officer of the Ninth Precinct.
Presumably, Grima will be back on the East Village’s streets later today. Neighborhood residents will offer him a free pup tent. The police will return to clear him away again.
Grima has said he does not feel safe living in city homeless shelters and will only accept permanent housing.
This story is like deja vu all over again, as once again we watch police clear away homeless people while offering them nothing except dangerous prison-like shelters. This is what we fought as a large and fairly organized movement, back in 1989-91, as the police repeatedly tried to clear out homeless people living in Tompkings Square Park and threw their belongings into dumpsters. It is terribly sad and maddening that nothing seems to have been learned since then. Our newest mayor is as bad as Giuliani et al — no plan for their housing, just “sweep” them out of sight! Maybe Johnny Grima will be the beginning of the new fight-back in the neighborhood.
Hello, Frank, they belong in state mental hospitals. To clean up, get off the drugs, booze and learn a trade. I feel more for the women homeless; they are raped, murdered. Male homeless are very scary and they do go after people. The men’s shelter over on 1st Ave, criminals go there to hide. That’s the first place where the cops look after a crime goes down. The guys need to get a job, then get housing. Time to vote Republican because NYC is a real toilet. Feel for the homeless women. Men can work. Sorry. Tough love
I feel very sorry for him because one person repeatedly getting arrested with nobody joining him putting up tents is a sad and painful thing to watch. There used to be a big “eviction watch” list that would turn out for police activity. GONE. There used to be a Housing Is a Human Right mass movement but that ended when the “squatters” got ownership and were able to sell their apartments and rent out their storefronts. GONE. There will be no fight-back now in this neighborhood. The radical artists are too busy doing “War in the Neighborhood”-style “remember the good old daze” books and art shows to defend the homeless.
Back in the old days Father Kuhn, pastor of St. Brigid-St Emeric Church, would have gone over and demanded that the cops leave this man alone or arrest him too. The whole congregation would have backed him up and the cops would have decided it was not worth it and left. Not anymore.