Embedded with the Dolores Park sleep-in protest of park closures

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Milk Club President Tom Temprano organized last night's Dolores Park "sleep in"
Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

It’s 1am on Monday (10/28) night in Dolores Park, and I’m wrapped in a sleeping bag scientifically engineered for warmth. Surrounded by 50 or so people, I’m staring at the stars while a Franciscan friar clad in brown robes shows me a Jimmy Fallon skit about Twitter on his iPhone.

“Hashtag shut the fuck up!” Questlove says to laughter of a live audience. This isn’t exactly how the homeless spend their nights, I think to myself.

But that’s why we’re here. Sup. Scott Wiener wants to close these parks from midnight to 5am, and that’s right when the homeless need them the most. The people here are sleeping in the park to show empathy, to show the homeless they’re not alone, and to protest’s Wiener’s legislation on the eve of its consideration by the Board of Supervisors.

Wiener says closing the parks will help police combat graffiti and vandals, and it will keep the parks safe.

That’s a red herring, a loaded statement that the people here feel in their bones is untrue. To my right, Tom Temprano, the bearded president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, is crouching, surveying the scene. He brought the activists to sleep in Dolores Park tonight because he feels the real targets in Wiener’s proposal are the homeless.

“This would be a vote that would criminalize poverty in San Francisco,” he said to the 50 or so activists earlier, around 9pm. At that point, they were all standing. Now they’re horizontal, trying to live the night as if we were homeless ourselves in solidarity with human beings -- those who eschew feather beds for the grass.

But not always by choice, like we have tonight.

The wind is blowing just enough to remind us we’re in San Francisco, but not enough to make the night like hell frozen over. Brother Juniper, a friar enamored with Jimmy Fallon and immigrant rights, gets up to ferry some people across Dolores Park to a bathroom in a house occupied by a brotherhood of Franciscan friars.

“We preach by doing,” another of the friars, Brother Paul Joseph, said earlier. The friars are in solidarity with the activists in their own way, by providing relief and warmth.

The homeless don’t have that option, and the protesters here acknowledge that. Ryan is a 20 year old from Sacramento, and he says he is privileged. This assuaged any eye rolling on my part, because isn’t it always the young ones who protest? But his earnestness was tempered with compassion. He told me he got angry, deeply angry, when he heard the park closure could lead to the homeless losing the parks as a place to lay their head.

“I’m not normally pissed,” he said.

I turned over in my sleeping bag as I thought about what he told me, and tried to think about why those here were so young. The folks I recognized as near or over 40 were the friars, who were deeply connected to the homeless. But then, there was also Gabriel Medina, an organizer with Our Mission: No Eviction, and a Mission resident.

Medina was the first person I met that night, and he and I connected as locals before we connected as reporter to interviewee. He’s a San Franciscan born and bred, like me, and went to Lowell High School. To him, caring for the homeless is a deeply San Franciscan tradition. As he noted, St. Francis was compassionate.

“We have people who are homeless outside (my work),” he told me. “From Guillermo to Alberto to Junebug. We call services to help them. Some want the help, others don’t. Some would rather sleep in our doorway. They feel hassled in the SROs. It can be dangerous there.”

He was frustrated that there were no easy answers. But what he was certain of, he said, was that criminalizing sleeping in a park was not an answer.

Suddenly the sprinklers by the playground spark to life, and half of us are up like a shot. I regrettably leave my friar friend behind as I snatch up my laptop, phone, and the sleeping bag my gracious boss lent me. We’re near the tennis courts, and the sprinklers turn on one by one and are coming towards us, like some sort of movie villain wanted to taunt us before soaking his victims.

Maybe more sprinklers would be more of a threat to the homeless than Wiener’s legislation, I think sleepily.  

One of those I see running is Michael Celaya, a 26 year old who told me he’s here because so many of his LGBT community are among the homeless. A cynic would say it’s a talking point of the activists with an axe to grind, but Celaya is not one of the usual suspects. He believes the gentrification by tech is inevitable, but that means our responsibility as a city is even greater.

To him, Wiener’s proposal to close the parks signals the supervisor’s departure from representing San Franciscans.

“The city is ours, the radical fairies and the rest,” he says. Wiener isn’t radical anymore. Celaya grips the brim of his straw hat and says “we want to see ourselves represented.”

The sprinklers scared a few of the protesters off, who went home to hopefully warmer environs. As the 22 of us left lay back down, couples curl up together, and a woman tells a story to a friend in sign language by electric lamplight. Her dog’s eyes follow her hands as they dance.

I fall asleep staring at the fog.

“Wake up, you’re on TV!” says one of the activists. Don’t hold me to knowing who it was. It was three hours later, and I’m arching my back as I wake up. A TV news van is blaring a light in our eyes, and Tom Temprano is rousing everyone. Soon it will be five, the hour that would allow the homeless back into the parks, so it’s time for us to go as well.

I walk over to Temprano and ask him to tell me something that sums up the night.

“Spending the night in Dolores only strengthened my commitment that we remain committed to prioritizing space for the homeless,” he said. “Did that sound alright? I didn’t get a wink of sleep.”

It sounded right, I said. As the crowd of activists scatter into the morning, some sleepily, others energetically, I notice that some stay behind. They’re on the tarps, eating the leftover food, huddled alone.

It was only an hour later as my first cup of coffee rouses my senses that I realize they may not have been activists. Maybe they have more to lose from Wiener’s legislation. Maybe they were taking advantage of a place to be safe.

I’m home now, heading back to bed. Do they even have a bed? I’ll never know.  

Comments

illegal for the homeless to sleep in the parks. And for the purpose of that rule, hanging out in the park all night partying while technically not actually sleeping doesn't make any difference.

I'm your you enjoy your little foray into being homeless, safe in the knowledge that you can go back to your million dollar condo afterwards and sip an amusingly delightful pinot grigio.

But glamorizing the wholesale misuse of the recreational areas that we the people fund is missing the bigger picture.

Posted by anon on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

*never read the comments*

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:50 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

about others being snide and pointless

and then shouts "FORE!" as he swings a 3 wood at a homeless person sleeping in the park

Posted by flkjf on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:16 am

line up with your dimes and nickles to play!

spin your ski balls up the table to kick ALL of the people out of the park so that it will be beautiful

Posted by flkjfgl on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:10 am

so that the one person who is left can fully enjoy the park without other people who are different from him ruining the experience

Posted by flkjfg on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:13 am

that they tend to get overrun with people who they are not designed for, and that problem becomes worse after dark.

The idea that we abandon the parks at night to anyone with nothing better to do and nowhere else to go is unpopular with the people.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:25 am

and has no clue about beautiful nighttime walks in the park

where the biggest danger is mosquito bites....

Posted by fd on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

Here is one. Go home and get a job.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

umm, you misread that paragraph entirely...

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

He had no reason to be there.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

thinks that people who care about stuff should just stay at home and watch boyscout park games on tv

Posted by flk on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:20 am

they are interfering with my view of the park....

Posted by flkj on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:19 am

"The homeless don’t have that option, and the protesters here acknowledge that. Ryan is a 20 year old from Sacramento, and he says he is privileged. This assuaged any eye rolling on my part, because isn’t it always the young ones who protest? But his earnestness was tempered with compassion. He told me he got angry, deeply angry, when he heard the park closure could lead to the homeless losing the parks as a place to lay their head.

“I’m not normally pissed,” he said.

I turned over in my sleeping bag as I thought about what he told me, and tried to think about why those here were so young. ".

Oh what a conundrum!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:39 pm
Posted by fl on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:23 am

Don't. Forget to check out the Scott wiener = Dan white protest signs on sfgates write up. Disgusting.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:53 pm
Posted by Guest on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

I haven't posted anything for days. Weiner's an asshole. He's not the same kind of asshole as Dan White, but the media would do well to focus on the issues and how he's harming the community, rather than a protester making a somewhat hyperbolic comparison. But this is the Chronicle we're talking about -a corporate mouthpiece if there ever was one.

Posted by Greg on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

flitter about in the park trying to irritate the humans and elves and get them to leave

Posted by fpospo on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:31 am

tallllll goblin (and probably an eagle scout)

Posted by fpospoi on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:27 am

I've got a lot of issues with Scott Wiener. But equating him with Dan White is way off base, inaccurate and uncool, and will alienate people who we need to support us.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 29, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

Eric, focusing attention on the homeless to build opposition to this legislation is going to alienate people who we need to support us.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 8:44 am

would you oppose it anyway?

I thought anarchists believed that the power should be with the people?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 9:02 am

The fundamental foundation of direct democracy (anarchism) is to avoid situations in which a majority constantly overrules a minority of its members. Such constant overruling of large numbers of constituents is the opposite of democracy, and leaves sizable populations perpetually angry with and fighting with eachother. (The US federal government and how Republicans and Democrats constantly attack and bicker with eachother, never making real progress, is a prime example of the problems caused by winners-make-the-rules voting.)

Direct democracy establishes decision making procedures that do not allow this. Therefore when a substantial subset of a group is strongly opposed to a decision, the people who could have established that decision by majority vote, instead accept amendments to the draft decision until almost everyone in the group is either supportive or has at least agreed that, even if they are not thrilled with it, they can live with the decision going forward.

In this way, no collection within a group is allowed to dominate any other.

So in this case, what the majority should be doing, is reaching out to the minority and asking, "How can we resolve your concerns so that we can get your support and do something about the problem we are trying to solve?"

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 9:40 am

meanwhile creeply imps drive everyone out of the park so the goblin boyscouts have room to start a toss the homeless person game

Posted by fposp on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 11:36 am

people. But now you seem to be saying that you only want the people to have power if it is something that you happen to agree with. If it isn't than you suddenly claim instead that anarchy is empowering a minority.

So you win either way huh?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

Please look up and read about:

'anarchism'

and

'consensus based decision making'

And then we can have a reasoned conversation about how these apply to Wiener's park closure legislation.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

and throws it back in goeblin brownshirt's face

(goeblin brownshirt boyscouts don't have a merit badge for cooking.... ;)

Posted by col on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

Although everyone else hates them because they are ruining the comments section, I get paid a dollar for each post I make, but I don't get paid if I reply twice to the same post.

So you are really boosting my income with your effluent. Please keep it up.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

that poetry planted like flowers amid his greasy muck is ugly

goeblin brownshirts have a strange perspective on reality....

by all means minions, get paid to spread your manure

it will just improve the soil for flowers

Posted by hlkdj on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

Lilli was actually being coherent and civil, briefly.

Oh, well, back to the babbling about Middle Earth (I gather that Lilli is changing the spelling of words to evade whatever the SFBG is using for a spam filter).

Posted by racer さ on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

thank you for playing Boyscout Pristine Park Ski Ball!

save up those dimes and nickles for the next round!

(goblin brownshirt boyscouts and other prudish darkly minions, don't let the arcade gate hit you on your ass on the way out....!)

Posted by dfjkglljp on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

difference in alleged emenings (in your mind, anyway) between anarchy and anarchism, then I cannot think what it is offhand.

I was merely observing your tendency to claim to want to put real power in the hands of the people but only, apparently, when they agree with you.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

Just when exactly did I claim that I believe those who want to keep the parks open at night are in the minority?

And it bears repeating, that putting power in the hands of the people, means putting power in the hands of all people, not just those who we agree with.

So absolutely, the minority that wants parks closed at night should be included in the decision making process.

But, they shouldn't be allowed to railroad that process.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

What happened to consensus?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

just keeps puttin up mucky scarecrows and yelling at them

he looks pretty funny :))))

Posted by floudjfo on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

progressives want total victory for their side. They do not want to give up anything.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

does not know simple definitions of words like "consensus" and "compromise" and so assumes everyone else is confused as well

:)))))

Posted by kdghjkh on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

If you wish to invest power in the people and IF a majority of those people want the park closed at night THEN, do you:

1) Accept that part of investing power in the people is that you sometimes get majority outcomes that you personally do not like,

2) Decide on the basis of what the minority want if you think that is "better"?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

...power to the people.

It is power to one group over another. That's not real democracy.

You also seem confused about my earlier statements.

I never said that people who want to keep the parks open at night are in the minority. I doubt that they are.

So those of us in the majority should work with those of you who are in the minority to address your concerns, without having to kick homeless people out of the parks at night.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

I would expect you to argue that the minority can be right and the majority can be wrong.

However, when you claim that you want to vest power in the people, then that implies that only the people matter. And not your own viewpoint. In that system, you would be a neutral facilitator, and not an activists with a very specific political agenda.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

also doesn't understand simple concepts like activism and facilitation and how they work together

:))))))

Posted by kdghjkh on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

Do you ever wonder why consensus based decision making is never used to do anything?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

decisions the way he does (like a character in an Ayn Rand novel) and needs to get outside more to play skee ball so he can see how real people interact with each other all over the world ;)

Posted by kdgh on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

and asks goebly food trucker

to describe what he imagines as his recipe for pretzels

Posted by choiuip on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

I prefer 'anarchy' over 'anarchism' because we've already got too many 'isms.'

Posted by marcos on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

It does not vest power in the silent majority. Elections do,

You want decisions made only by those who are very interested and active in the political process, but those people are much more elft-wing in SF than the average voter.

That's why Ed Lee wins the mayoral election.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

Ongoing participatory democratic structures where people can meaningfully contribute to decision making without giving up their lives is a more accurate way to translate popular sentiment into public policy than occasional elections where office holders invariably sell out constituents to vested interests.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

meetings is because the silent majority stay away from them, and that allows fringe activists like you to wield disproportionate power.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by kdghjkdf on Oct. 30, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

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