“Sleep-Out” Protest Outside Disneyland by Homeless Advocates Ends Because of Sprinklers

“No justice, no peace, no more homeless on the street” about 80 people chanted outside the gates of Disneyland Friday night, just before they tried to sleep out overnight there to draw attention to Anaheim’s growing homeless population. The event was organized by activist Jeanine Robbins as part of a “Summer of the People” effort in the city. “Disney over the years has purchased the city council,” she says. “Because of that, the city council gives Disney whatever they want.”

The action began at the Anaheim Convention Center, where the D23 Expo was taking place. The crowd then moved up on Harbor Boulevard and Disney Way to begin their sleep-out, complete with camping gear, sleeping bags, blankets and lawn chairs. More and more people joined as the night unfolded, all bringing different posters and signs with slogans like “Disney is gentrifying this area and killing the poor” and “Homeless is not magical.”

“We want people to be aware that Disney is hostile to homeless they need to help them instead of torture them” said Heidi Zimmerman as she took a break from chanting. “What they [Disney] have been doing is not helping the homeless,” referring to Anaheim’s recent decision to remove bus benches near the Disneyland Resort because city officials claimed homeless were beginning to take them over.

Thousands of Disney fans walked by the protestors. A few grunted and shook their heads in disgust; others thanked them for raising awareness. Cars passed by and rolled down their windows to get a better listen at what was going on, honking in agreement and excitement. But the vast majority just walked or drove by without acknowledging the chants and posters.

“We desperately need affordable housing, we are here to put pressure on the biggest employer in Anaheim so that they can put pressure to the city council,” said Linda Lehnkering with the Anaheim Poverty Task Force.” She held a poster board with a picture of a homeless Pinocchio that read “End Homelessness in the Happiest Place on Earth.”

As more people showed up, the whole thing almost seemed like a party. Activists brought out glow sticks and danced to music booming from loudspeakers as they informed the Disney fans of the realities of Anaheim. But as the last batch of Disney fans walked through the peaceful protest and activists settled in for the night to sleep, the sprinklers went on. They’d continue to go on and off for a good hour until activists realized it seemed like a ploy by the Mouse to shoo them away.

Everyone gathered their wet belongings and walked away with plans for more demonstrations. “This is only the beginning,” vowed Robbins. “People need to be reminded that outside the wonderful gates of Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth, things are not so happy.”

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