East Village protests recent homeless sweeps at site of infamous squatters clash more than 30 years ago

Homeless individuals and their housed neighbors protested Mayor Eric Adams’ encampment sweeps in Tompkins Square Park on Friday, invoking memories of the 1988 riot there.

Friday evening hundreds gathered in Tompkins Square Park to decry the removal of a homeless camp that occurred a few days earlier on April 6. The standoff took place on 9th Street and Avenue B when several tent dwellers refused to cooperate with sanitation workers who attempted to literally trash their homes. This act of defiance has inspired the East Village in a way that has not been seen since the Tompkins Square Park riots more than 30 years ago.

“It hasn’t been real for quite a long time. Now it looks like it might start getting real again,” said Eric, a long-term housing activist, referring to the infamous and violent battle between squatters and the NYPD in 1988.

Protesters yank down metal barricades. Photo by Dean Moses
Protesters climbed upon chess tables. Photo by Dean Moses

Pulling over metal barricades that were erected around chess tables in order to prevent the unhoused from camping in the area, the protesters not only dismantled the fences and reclaimed that section of the park, but they did also it with a list of demands. 

“We are out here with two very clear demands: The first one is an immediate end to the violent sweeps. Our second demand is clean, safe community-controlled housing for every single person in New York,” Holden Taylor with the Brooklyn Eviction Defense said.

Protesters fumed over the removals. Photo by Dean Moses
The park overflowed with protesters. Photo by Dean Moses

Climbing atop a table, several fuming speakers charged that history could very well to repeat itself if violence against the vulnerable is not halted. The group also condemned the Department of Homeless services, the NYPD, and the Sanitation Department for throwing out the belongings of those who already have so little. 

The gathering drew about 200 onlookers who joined together to march through the park chanting, “Squat, Squat, Squat!”

“Our message is really clear: housing is the solution to homelessness,” Sinthia Veev, a member of the encampment said.

During an interview with NY1, Mayor Adams stated that a makeshift home made of cardboard is not the solution. He stresses that everyone has the right to shelter in New York.

“A tent and a cardboard box is not the only place a person can go. This is a right to shelter city. No one is turned away if they need shelter,” Adams said. And then we’re looking at our safe haven beds, where we’re helping those with mental illnesses get the wrap around services they deserve. I am not going to allow the normalizing of people living on our streets that we have allowed to happen before…It is inhumane. It is not right,” Adams said on NY1.

Housing advocates and unhoused New Yorkers protest against the clearing of encampments and call for affordable housing at a rally in Tompkins Square Park in New York, New York, on Apr. 8, 2022. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Housing advocates and unhoused New Yorkers protest against the clearing of encampments and call for affordable housing at a rally in New York, New York, on Apr. 8, 2022.Photo by Gabriele Holtermann