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St. Petersburg's attack on the homeless was outrageous, 1/23

By LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published January 23, 2007


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Police slash open tents to roust the homeless Jan. 20 

The League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area joins those who are outraged by the treatment of the homeless by city officials last Friday. The league believes that responsible government should share in the solution of economic and social problems that affect the general welfare.

That the city was moving to address homeless issues had seemed promising. What happened Friday night was unethical, inhumane and outrageous. Furthermore, destroying and confiscating tents did nothing to solve the problem. With two recent deaths of homeless men, it is reasonable that homeless people would want to stay in groups. Where should they go?

As affordable housing is more and more difficult to find, the problem of homelessness is going to grow. The league believes that shelter is a basic human need. City officials should be helping to identify places where homeless individuals and families can live and feel safe.

How can a city hold up its head with pride in its expansion of the arts and educational facilities (as described in the same edition of the Times) while trampling on the homeless?

Norma Rienhardt, Evelyn Wright, co-presidents, League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area

Police slash open tents to roust the homeless Jan. 20, story

A shameful assault

In all of the 42 years that I have lived in St. Petersburg, I have never been more ashamed of this city, its mayor and Police Department than I am now.

The outright destruction of a person's property by the police and fire departments is uncalled for. These kind of bully tactics are the mark of those who have no desire to solve a problem without brute force.

So, Mr. Mayor, you send in the bully boys to clean up the riff-raff. Is that going to solve the homeless problem in this city? No. Will it make things better? No.

The mayor and City Council always seem to be worried about the image of this city. Funny thing is that image is now more tarnished than it ever was.

Maybe if the mayor and the city were a little less concerned about the latest arts project and concentrated on helping its homeless people, this city might once again be a nice, friendly place to live.

Dave Lewis, St. Petersburg

Police slash open tents to roust the homeless Jan. 20, story

Disgraceful act

I am ashamed to be a citizen of St. Petersburg! What a disgraceful performance. As a taxpayer, I would like the Times to identify the city official or officials who directed the police and fire personnel to vandalize the property of the homeless victims of this outrage.

If I were commanding a Marine unit in Iraq and my Marines engaged in similar conduct, the press would be howling for me to be relieved from command, and rightfully so. Jan. 19, 2007: a very sad day in the history of St. Petersburg.

Lt. Col. John F. Hales, U.S. Marine Corps, (retired), St. Petersburg

What about rights?

First, as an ex-police officer, I am appalled at the tactics of the city of St. Petersburg and its Police Department. The Constitution guarantees us the right to be secure in our homes from illegal seizure and entry, and the destruction of the tents amounted to just that. Just because these people are homeless does not mean that they lose their constitutional rights. In my opinion, the St. Petersburg Police Department should be investigated by the FBI for violation of these people's civil rights.

Second, as a born-again Christian, I am ashamed to say that I am living in an area that claims to be predominantly Christian. Instead of destroying their tents, the city should have shown some compassion, and another way of resolving this problem should have been explored.

John D. Mincher, Largo

Bully tactics

I am outraged at the behavior of the St. Petersburg police toward a vulnerable population already traumatized this past week by the random murder of two who were homeless.

Under what authority do police destroy and confiscate personal property of any citizen? Why wasn't a verbal warning and respectful request given, during daylight hours, to those whose "crime" was sleeping in tents that provided some sense of safety and privacy? I believe these type of bully tactics should not be permitted.

Mardie Chapman, St. Petersburg

Police slash open tents to roust the homeless Jan. 20, story

City's ugly side

What kind of madness could cause St. Petersburg officials to vandalize and confiscate the meager shelters of its most vulnerable citizens? Regardless of how these people became homeless, they are still members of our community who deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity.

This was mean-spirited and ugly behavior that reflects far worse on St. Petersburg than any tent city ever could.

I only hope the mayor has the decency to apologize and make amends. He might even start funding additional low-income housing out of the property tax windfall the city's been collecting in recent years.

Diane Love, Madeira Beach

Police slash open tents to roust the homeless Jan. 20, story

A poor excuse

This story noted that "city officials said their job is to protect and that there were significant safety concerns at the two locations."

Really? I believe that the homeless' encampments were simply too visible for the city's taste. There are plenty of other neglected issues regarding public safety to let this be an excuse for Friday's despicable act. This is yet another casualty of the city's focus on upscaling its appeal.

Jason Pelszynski, St. Petersburg

Wanton destruction

It is incomprehensible to me that St. Petersburg police destroyed the tents of the homeless! If any of us citizens had done the same, we would be in jail by now - and rightly so! If they wanted to disassemble the tents and leave them stacked somewhere, fine. But destroying them?

I hope all compassionate citizens will help find a solution for these people and also hold city officials accountable for such an assault on dignity.

Patricia Randall, Tampa

Many hands make art deal work Jan. 20, story A new challenge

Great kudos to the players who made this art deal work. It's a sensible win-win for everyone - especially art, music, theater and education lovers. Many cities would be proud of such a combo of resources.

Now a suggestion. Take the team of Rick Baker, Carl Kuttler, Don Shea, Jeff Lyash, add Bill Hough again, and solve the homeless dilemma.

That same winning group now has an even more compelling reason to solve the problem, not only downtown, but citywide. Brains and money are all it takes as we can see with the wonderful art deal.

Randall Perry, St. Petersburg

[Last modified January 22, 2007, 21:56:06]


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