With an anti-homeless camping ban on the city's books and the Bridges at Kraemer Place shelter severely lacking enough bed space, Anaheim activists are planning a "sleep out" protest Friday night in front of Disneyland's gates.
The action kicks off a grassroots "Summer of the People" initiative that seeks to pressure the city council to "do more to help the homeless." With the D23 Expo happening at the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend, protesters will get an early start Friday morning by handing out flyers taking Disneyland to task for paying workers poverty wages and contributing to the city's homeless crisis. "I've had Disney employees tell me that in the employee areas, there are showers because Disney is very well aware of their employees that live out of their cars, if not on the streets," says protest organizer and longtime Anaheim resident Jeanine Robbins.
An expected group of 50 activists plans to return at nightfall for the sleep out on Harbor Boulevard and Disney Way from 9 pm-3 am—or even overnight. Robbins planned the "Summer of the People" protest long before the Orange County Register reported last week that the city removed bus stop benches around the Disneyland Resort to deter homeless people—news that only made the action more pressing. "It's appalling to me," she says. "Disney is not a good neighbor. They treat the residents poorly."
Eve Garrow, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California's homeless policy analyst, is participating in the sleep-out and also criticizes the bench removals. "This is a very old, mean spirited and ineffective strategy that businesses and municipalities use to supposedly deter visible homelessness," Garrow says. She's already heard reports of homeless people lying down on the sidewalk around the bus stops instead of leaving the resort area. "The city is mostly likely violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, too," the policy analyst adds. "People using crutches or have other mobility impairments are unable to sit down and get themselves back up."
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Bench removals aren't the only way Anaheim tries to make its homeless population out of sight for the House of Mouse. "When Disney holds it's annual half marathon, Anaheim police come and shoo people away from the bike trials," Garrow says of the nearby Santa Ana riverbed encampment.
The Summer of the People plans similar actions advocating for the homeless at Angel Stadium later this month and at the Honda Center, where another encampment has formed nearby. For the Disneyland action, protesters in sleeping bags risk being cited just like the homeless people they are in solidarity with. As a precaution, legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild will be onsite monitoring any interactions between police and protesters.
Robbins invites more to join in the Friday night sleep-out. Protesters won't be blocking sidewalks, but will seek to talk with the throngs of tourists passing by. "We're hoping to make them aware that Disneyland inside the gates is a magical place, but with one step outside and it can be a nightmare for the residents living a block away," Robbins says. "Disneyland has a moral obligation to contribute to the city."