March for homeless planned downtown Friday

Advocates for Ashland's homeless residents who have been protesting recent police camping citations for the past week will march downtown Friday afternoon, City Councilman Eric Navickas announced Monday.

Navickas, a homeless advocate, said he also will ask the City Council today to stop police from issuing camping citations for three months while a new policy is developed.

"I'd like to get a short-term stay on any arrests or citations regarding the camping ban until we have gone through a community process to find ways to create solutions," he said.

Smaller protests will continue this week in the plaza and possibly in front of the City Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St., before the 7 p.m. meeting today, said Navickas, who is helping to organize Friday's march.

"What we're seeing is that people are continuing to protest," he said. "I really think we need to reach out to those in the community that are sympathetic to the cause of homelessness, rather than just relying on the homeless to defend themselves."

The protesters are in the process of securing a city permit for the 3 p.m. Friday march, which will begin in the plaza and proceed through downtown, Navickas said.

Since Nov. 29, as many as 40 homeless residents have been protesting police citations given out for illegal camping. They have said they intend to continue their protest until they can work out an agreement with the city that involves having a legal place to sleep in Ashland.

Mayor John Stromberg plans to meet Thursday with Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness and Aaron Reed, a homeless advocate, to try to resolve the situation.

Stromberg said he will also allow Navickas to put a reasonable discussion item about the city's camping ban on the City Council's agenda Tuesday, as long as there is time at the meeting.

Police have issued 13 citations for illegal camping or trespassing in the downtown area since the protests began. As of Friday evening, none of the protesters had been taken to jail because they had all agreed to move after being cited, police said.

However, last week Ashland Municipal Court began issuing warrants for people who have failed to appear in court multiple times after being cited for city code violations, such as trespassing, violating Lithia Park rules or destroying city property, Holderness said Monday.

This weekend police arrested two men, believed to be transients, for failing to appear on second-degree criminal trespass citations.

Holderness said the decision to issue the warrants has nothing to do with the recent protests and is something police and the city attorney have been working on for more than a year.

"This has no relationship to anything else that is going on in the plaza related to homelessness," he said.

Navickas said he feels the warrants unfairly target homeless people, because they often have the most city code violations.

"Throughout history this has been a means of oppressing the homeless: finding ways to give them warrants, to harass them and to cite them," he said.

Holderness said the warrants are not intended to target anyone and are a way of ensuring that there are consequences for people who fail to appear in court.

"We're doing the same thing for people who have homes," he said. "The only status we're looking at is someone who repeatedly fails to show up for court when they're required to."

Navickas, who lost his bid for reelection last month and whose term ends Dec. 31, said he hopes to organize marches for the homeless statewide.

"I think that's a long-term goal, to look at statewide organizing and solidarity protests across the state," he said. "I think with the economic conditions, these are problems that many are facing and other communities are facing as well."

A handful of protesters could be seen holding signs in the plaza Monday. Participant Critter Satellite watched over a box full of hand-painted cardboard signs he said he's saving for Friday's march.

"We're in the eighth day now of this, and it seems like in this next week, there's the potential for a lot of progress to happen," he said. "We're hoping a solution can happen pretty soon."

After staying at a shelter that opens on Sunday nights only at First Presbyterian Church, Satellite said he didn't know where he was going to sleep Monday night.

"Every Sunday night, every winter, a shelter opens up," he said, "but tonight, I'll have to break the law if I sleep in the city limits, unless I get permission from someone to sleep on private property."

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or

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