‘Nobody should die homeless’: Anarchy Row in East Village swept again while holding vigil for deceased encampment member

Embattled East Village homeless encampment Anarchy Row honored one of its fallen members Monday — and then were subjected to yet another enforcement sweep.

Jose Hernandez, who went by Joe, died recently after falling into a coma due to extreme liver failure. He was a member of Anarchy Row, an encampment on 9th Street and Avenue B that has faced a slew of removals and arrests over the last several months. He lived in the row of tents with his lover Amy and became a cherished part of the Anarchy Row family.

“Joe ended up in the hospital from his liver bursting. He was in a coma for a while, for at least a week and I guess he was like throwing up blood before he went. And so now he just passed on from us three or four days ago and we are gonna hold the memorial right here for him,” Anarchy Row resident Johnny Grima told amNewYork Metro.

Johnny Grima remembers his friend. Photo by Dean Moses
Amy remembers her lost love, Jose Hernandez. Photo by Dean Moses

Both the housed and unhoused gathered Monday to celebrate the life lost, yet the vigil was not a peaceful one.

As candles were lit and flowers were placed in memory of a friend, in came members of the NYPD, the Sanitation Department and the Department of Homeless Services to once again dismantle the erected tents.

This sent already emotional mourners into a rage with some yelling at the encroaching clean-up crew and others simply attempting to stand in the path of the officers.

Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

The commotion drew the addition of film crew members who were shooting Amazon’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” in Tompkins Square Park. When asked if the film set contributed to the reason for the sweep, a production assistant denied that claim, saying that he urged the sweep team to leave the area.

“I would walk off the set if it had to do with us, and I know a lot of others would too,” Tyler, a production assistant said.

Locals paid their respects. Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

Grima called the sweep a waste of resources as sanitation workers dragged a tent and lugged a chair to the open maw of a waiting garbage truck while others engaged in a heated argument with officers.

Terrified, Amy fled the scene unable to stay for her own lover’s vigil due to fear of the sweep.

“I tried to get her a single bed safe haven, but instead they want to surround her with cops,” Grima said.

After the sweep had been completed, the gathering attempted to regain their composure and honor Hernandez who friends say was a former service member. Pastor William Kroeze of Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish often opened his doors to his undomiciled neighbors, standing beside words of support that had been taped above the sidewalk, Kroeze remembered Hernandez.

Enraged that a sweep occurred during the vigil. Photo by Dean Moses

“In a time when so many in our city in our nation see our own brothers and sisters as trash to be thrown away swept away to be taken away. What we do today is we lift up the humanity the dignity of every single one of us. We gathered today to remember Joe to lift him up in our hearts, to make sure that he knows that he was not forgotten,” Kroeze said. “Nobody should die alone. Nobody should die homelessness; nobody should die with nothing to their name. We cry out for justice.”

When reached out for comment, the mayor’s office redirected amNewYork Metro to a previous statement made by Mayor Eric Adams.

“I have said since we started this initiative that every New Yorker deserves dignity, and we are demonstrating that this is possible. Our teams are working professionally and diligently every day to make sure that every New Yorker living on the street knows they have a better option while ensuring that everyone who lives in or visits our city can enjoy the clean public spaces we all deserve,” Mayor Adams said. 

Photo by Dean Moses