In an event called “Bring Back the Hippies to Ashland,” some two dozen homeless people and their supporters protested Friday evening on Ashland’s Plaza about the city’s camping ban and frequent ticketing for infractions such as smoking, trespassing, dog issues or, as one put it, “they’re targeting us for hanging out, for loitering, is what it comes down to.”
The event was organized by 26-year resident Daniel Rueff, who said, “Peace and love was the best idea anyone ever had. This once was a friendly hippie town. Now it’s a culture of rich old folks. They took over the spirit of the town and pushed back with a camping ban. I want to see more harmony and diversity, more smiles and less frowns.”
The gathering was announced by, among others, Peace House, with member Dot Fisher-Smith saying it’s to oppose the camping ordinance. “We need to see more acceptance of travelers, more inclusion of un-housed residents of our town. We have a lot of concern about lack of diversity. We used to be hippies. Now we’re old, white rich people.”
Aisa Nathan Diaz Scott voiced a frequent theme of demonstration participants, saying they need to be seen as actual residents of Ashland, whether they have homes or not.
“I’ve been here 30 years,” Scott said. “That’s a long time. I don’t need tickets. We pick up our trash. We police ourselves — for instance, we don’t allow meth-heads. We really care. The police don’t like us, but we’re a family unit and we’re tired of being harassed all the time.”
Darren Bandy, who said he’s a Marine Corps veteran with service in Afghanistan and Nigeria, noted, “I’m here because of the harassment. My dog is trained to sense my seizures but I get tickets for him every day if he’s in the park. I pay $150 for each ticket. I’ve had 90 offenses and I show up in court. Homeless lives matter.” His picket sign said, “legalize dogs.”
An unhoused resident calling himself “Nomad” waved a sign saying, “Ashland police target and hunt poor people.” He said police break up gatherings and look for outstanding warrants, adding, “I ask people not to support the war on the poor. Ashland is big enough for everyone.”
A homeless man calling himself “Red,” here since 1989 and sleeping in his truck, said he’d like to see more opportunities for the homeless to make an income “in an Earth-friendly way,” such as having access to a garden.
The event was peaceful, with a four-person group singing on guitar and drumming. No police were present. It was staged after the regular Friday Peace Meal at Pioneer Hall by Lithia Park.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.