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Homeless encampments in Fresno, like this one,
are periodically raided by City Sanitation workers.
A homeless advocate, trying to figure out where the
property was being stored, came under suspicion
of being a terrorist threat.
PHOTO /mike rhodes
By Mike Rhodes

    A Fresno homeless advocate, Phil Connelly, has been informed that his attempts to help the homeless have been “brought to the attention of the Police Department’s Terrorism Liaison Officers.” The unwanted attention followed a City of Fresno “clean up” of a homeless encampment in downtown Fresno.

    Several homeless advocates monitored the “clean up” and removal of homeless people’s property on April 22, 2009 by City Sanitation Workers. Most of the homeless people move out shortly before they arrive, and move back later in the day. It is a meaningless game of cat and mouse that is not intended to help the homeless. As a result of this constant harassment, sometimes the homeless lose their property.

    Phil Connelly went to the City of Fresno Corporate Yard to see where the confiscated property was taken. It has been city policy to store property at that location. Connelly spoke with Phillip Weathers at the Community Sanitation office. “He told me the confiscated items were not brought to the City of Fresno Corporation.”

    Connelly says Weathers told him “the persons who own the confiscated property are expected to call his office at the number listed on the posted notices. Weathers said if the owner can provide a description of their confiscated property; Weathers or a staff member will take the property to a location where the owner wants to reclaim it, or the property will be retrieved from its current storage location and the owner can come to the Community Sanitation office to claim the confiscated property.”

    The policy of storing homeless people’s property for 90 days is the result of a successful lawsuit against the City of Fresno. City Sanitation was taking and immediately destroying homeless people’s property. The homeless received a $2.3 million settlement, the largest settlement of its kind in the country.

    A few days after his visit to the City of Fresno Corporate Yard, Phillip Connelly was contacted by Sgt. Ronald Grimm, Homeland Security Coordinator for the Fresno Police Department. Here is the letter he received:

    “This e-mail is in regards to your visit to the City of Fresno Corporate Yard on April 22 of this year. This facility is considered a Key Resource to the City of Fresno, and is critical to the continuity of government for our area. Inasmuch, issues regarding the security (or breeches of security) at this facility fall within the investigative responsibility of the Fresno Police Dept. Your actions during your visit to this facility (primarily the photographing of specific sites on the premises and the contact you had with City personnel) caused concern among several City employees and was brought to the attention of the Police Department’s Terrorism Liaison Officers.

While we assume your visit to the premises was related to an ongoing investigation, I would like to ask for your cooperation for any future visits. If possible, could you please inform City employees at the facility as to the nature of your visit and the particular public areas you would like to visit. Also, if you could inform these same employees that you will be taking photographs in public-access areas it would probably prevent the issue from becoming a concern of the Terrorism Liaison Officer unit.”

    Is being an advocate for homeless rights a legitimate reason for being investigated by Homeland Security and coming under the scrutiny of the Police Department’s Terrorism Liaison Officers? Will Connelly and other advocates be on a Homeland Security watch list of Domestic Terrorists? Perhaps Connelly is destined to be whisked off the street, sent to Guantanamo Bay, and tortured until he confesses his nefarious actions in support of homeless people in this community?

Mike Rhodes, editor of the Community Alliance Newspaper can be reached at

Lenox Lounge with Patience Higgins: Tuesday Night

smoking and hot    
    cobalt jazz
        coils above the tenements.
burnished night 
    full of the not-yet    steals
        through shut windows and dissolves.
the hour, late:   
    the music done
        the musicians in motion, done

refreshed, exhausted, done
    with what swept them
        with what drove them, down.
All murmuring    one to one,   
    striking their weary high fives,
        vibrating still to the tempos, the final shivering
crescendo of the cymbal, bell tone of Africa
    where first the Portuguese
             then the Spanish, the Danes, the Dutch,

the Swedes, the French, the English
    probed for gold and ivory,  for women with
        their children and men.

Flutes uncouple, saxophones bow to velvet.
    Now sail, America, away,
        sail free under the sandy stars.
                        — Cathleen Williams

I’m riding in a bus
from Arizona
to New Mexico.
Among the passengers
various Latino migrants:
three Mexicans
two Ecuadorians
one Peruvian.
I listen to their conversation
from my seat:
full days’ work,
from Monday to Monday,
holidays, replacements,
In the distance I see a cargo train passing,
hundreds of cars full of commodities.
One of the migrants remains sleeping.
Next to him a white man
points to the train with pride:
“There goes our economy,” he says.
“That train’s the portrait of our progress.”
The phrase resounds in my head.
The guy doesn’t know that his economy
is also traveling on this bus
and that the most human portrait of progress
is embodied in the exhausted
and parched face
of the one who’s asleep at his side.

                     —  Carla Badillo

                               Translated from the Spanish by Jack Hirschman


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551,
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