Police lights were flashing across the street from Peoples Park on Wednesday evening as students and locals met to discuss police discrimination toward the homeless population of the park.
At the same time, Craig Raymond, a homeless man originally from south Boston, was being spoken to by police and was almost arrested for drawing on stop signs on Kirkwood with dry erase markers.
Raymond’s shattered guitar lay there throughout the discussion as different people, both residents of the park and other Bloomington locals, spoke at “Keep the People in Peoples Park.” The discussion at the Park was organized to let people talk about the homeless situation.
Earlier that day, Raymond had been in Peoples Park with his guitar. Bradi Heaberlin, an IU student, said she saw Raymond get kicked out of the park at approximately 5 p.m. by a Bloomington police officer.
In frustration, Raymond shattered his guitar on a fire hydrant near the park. This guitar, which had been signed by different people all over Bloomington, was placed at the base of the tree in the center of the park.
Brandon Drake, the moderator for the event, said the main focus of event was just to inform people of what is happening in the city.
“I think there needs to be awareness of discriminatory city ordinances,” Drake said.
Drake, a Bloomington native, said he did not remember there being any problem in the park, but that now there seems to be “demonizing” of people who live there.
Susha Grub, formerly homeless herself, and two of her three kids were also there, and they talked about how important the park has always been for them.
As she spoke, a brief chant went up: “Don’t mess with our park.”
Grub said that she takes her children to the park every day, and that it was not the park but rather the bars that were the problem.
“Shut the bars down and leave the park alone,” Grub said.
Her 10-year-old son, William Haines, said he and his brother always come to Peoples Park and play football after school.
“We all like this place,” William said.
Grub said she felt that there was one set of rules for homeless and another set for other residents, especially college students. Unlike the students, the people of the park are not at the same economic level.
“We don’t have money,” Grub said. “We don’t pass go, we go to jail.”
The discussion at Peoples Park also made progress in coming up with methods of possibly improving the situation, and suggestions were put upon a large white board.
Drake said that some suggestions included directing funds from parking meters toward renovating the park and toward housing options for local homeless people. Drake said he was also curious about crime rates for IU students and whether more crime came from the students than from the homeless.
Grub recalled walking home from the park one night when someone leaving the bars hit her over the head with a bottle. She said nothing was done by police afterwards.
“Cops think they can mess with anyone,” Grub said.
While Grub had no idea the event was happening when she came up to speak, she said she would do anything to save the park for her kids and for her friends who lived there.
“I love being out here with these people,” Grub said. “This is our family.”
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