Camp members of the homeless shelter known as ‘The Ark’ situated under the Mancunian Way have been evicted this Friday by a combination of police officers and Manchester Metropolitan University enforcement officers.
The Ark was created as a “self-serving community” in an attempt to combat Manchester’s developing homelessness crisis. Barriers were erected to provide some measure of security for rough sleepers, with the overhead Mancunian Way providing some protection from the elements.
Through continuing contributions of materials, tents, shoes, clothing, food, and bedding, the camp had sheltered up to 12 people for a number of weeks. The project has been sponsored by a host of activists, many of whom were present to protest Friday’s eviction.
Last week a judge granted Manchester Metropolitan University an order giving them permission to remove the camp. On the 11th of September the camp was handed a civil eviction notice for Friday the 18th. The homeless were granted six days to protest the eviction; however The Mancunion understands that no reply was given.
Throughout the week the homeless produced multiple signs to protest their eviction. One sign claimed the council had threatened to take everything, and had threatened prison sentences or a £5000 fine if the rough sleepers did not dismantle the camp and leave in an orderly fashion.
Videos of the scene clearly show fights and scuffles breaking out between homeless and enforcement officers as the area is cordoned off by metal fences and bailiffs move in to dispose of the camp’s infrastructure.
One video is extremely shocking, showing a lady who The Mancunion understands to be artist and homeless activist Jen Wu being carried from the camp screaming by four male enforcement officers, while protestors endeavour to push the enforcement officers and police away from her. In the video she appears to be dropped straight on her head as protestors grapple with the enforcement officers.
A few hours later our reporter Joe Evans saw Jen Wu, obviously shaken from her experience, carried into an ambulance on a stretcher.
At 1:50pm Manchester Metropolitan University released a lengthy statement. Key to this statement was the claims that:
“The majority of the protestors who were removed this morning are not recognised as homeless individuals, either by the City Council or by Greater Manchester Police.”
Manchester Metropolitan also claimed in their statement that “Throughout this period, several members of the group have been aggressive and verbally abusive to university employees.
“At no point were our security staff involved in any direct altercations with the group.”
This last point concerning altercations seems to be in direct conflict with video reports and testaments made by residents.
Dominic Alicandro, a resident of ‘The Ark’, said that “evicting homeless people in the winter—when the most amount of deaths happen in the winter [is] appalling.”
Simon Pook, a solicitor who works for Robert Lizar Solicitors, a firm currently advising the homeless involved in this incident spoke to The Mancunion saying: “Having watched the video of the incident I am very concerned at the way Jen Wu was physically dropped on the pavement. Why was there that level of violence taking place?
“Also I am concerned at the way Jen Wu was carried by four male enforcement officers. There were female officers on site, were they not available? As far as I am concerned it’s an absolute travesty.
“The issue of homelessness in Manchester cannot be solved with eviction alone. You can’t just keep moving the problem on to the next place. I demand that the University of Manchester Students’ Union Exec Team take up this issue with Manchester Metropolitan’s Union officers.
“However, I and my firm will continue to work closely with these vulnerable people to ensure that their fundamental human rights are respected and they are allowed some dignity.”
In a statement to the Manchester Evening News, Matt Downie from the pressure group Crisis stated that: “Rough sleeping in England has risen by 55 per cent since 2010, and by 14 per cent in the past year, with cuts to benefits and homelessness services taking a heavy toll.”
Downie said that at Crisis, “we are particularly disturbed by reports of people’s possessions being thrown away. If you are living on the streets, a small collection of belongings may be all you have left.”
“Manchester City Council must now make good on its commitment to support people to escape the streets.”
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