UPDATE: County Officials Force Occupy Campers to Move

UPDATED: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 --- 5:55 p.m.
REPORTER: Chris Woodard

Deadlines didn't do it. Tickets didn't do it. But tonight homeless campers are in a new spot because county employees forced them out.

The homeless occupy group had been living in an illegal tent city at Lake View Hill County Park for more than a week.

It's located on Northport Drive.

The park is not a campsite and county employees asked the group to move. They say they offered resources like space at homeless shelters.

The campers refused, not happy with the options the county was offering, and even tickets didn't force them out.

Today tensions reached a boiling point when the county stopped asking and moved the campers themselves.

Early this morning dozens of sheriff's deputies and county parks employees set up a perimeter at the park and moved in.

One neighbor who supports the campers said, "It's irritating to me beyond belief. I'm fed up. I'll do anything I have to. If I get arrested I will. I'll do anything to support the cause."

The homeless campers had been living in a tent city at the park, had refused orders to leave and were being forced out.

Franjo Majstoric says, "It was like a raid. It was a raid. They really, literally came down and raided us."

The campers were told to grab the personal belongings they could and leave everything else.

Majstoric says, "You're not wanted. You're not welcome, period."

The tents and other items were loaded into dump trucks and taken to Token Creek Park.

Andy Heidt is with Dane County Human Services.

He says, "It was a confluence of the neighbors, political leadership, deciding it was really a bad example to let people continue to camp on our property."

Once at Token Creek Park there was a confrontation over getting their things back

The campers were told parks employees had to look through their items and take an inventory before giving them back.

Parks employees eventually agreed to turn over the items as long as the campers signed for them.

Eventually things calmed and the campers decided to stay.

Brenda Konkel, who advocates for the homeless, wasn't happy about the forced move.

She says, "This is completely unnecessary and what a waste of taxpayer dollars."

Token Creek is a temporary site and a much larger argument still looms.

The campers say they will stay at Token Creek, at least for the time being.

The question now is if there is a permanent solution both sides will be happy with.

The homeless want a site closer to the city where they have access to public transportation.

The county executive has said repeatedly, the people are not taking advantage of the services and homeless shelters that are available.

But the campers say they don't feel safe or comfortable at those shelters.

According to the county executive's office, Token Creek park is a better option than Lake View Hill Park because it is a legal campsite with fire rings, bathrooms and trash containers.

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UPDATED Tuesday, November 20, 2012 --- 11:23 a.m.

NBC15's Chris Woodard is following the updates on the Occupy Madison campers today.

He reports that the homeless campers recently arrived at Token Creek Park to get their belongings. There was some disagreement when the Parks employees wanted to go through all the property to take inventory. But the campers didn't want them going through any of their stuff.

The Parks employees eventually agreed to give the campers their things, as long as they identified what was theirs and signed off on it.

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UPDATED: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 --- 10:00 a.m.

Dane County Parks officials went to Lake View County Park this morning and removed the group of homeless Occupy campers who have been camping there in tents for more than a week.

One witness tells NBC 15 there were dozens of officers at the scene. Authorities took down the tents and collected their belongings. They handed out a flier (see picture in slide show) telling the people where they could claim their property.

It appears officers are instructing the people to move to Token Creek park, a move that has been urged by community leaders for days. The Occupy group has insisted Token Creek is too far away from transportation and resources.

In recent days, tensions have ratcheted up between the homeless campers and residents in the Lake View County Park neighborhood.

NBC 15 has a crew on the scene and we will report updates as they happen.

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UPDATED: Monday, November 19, 2012 --- 5:45 p.m.
REPORTER: Chris Woodard

Homeless Occupy campers are at odds with the county.

Expensive citations have been issued and the campers still aren't leaving.

Both sides are now wondering what will happen next.

One homeless camper says, "They're handing tickets out. Where do you think I'm going to come up with the money?"

The situation has reached a standstill.

County officials ordered the homeless campers leave Lake View County Park by 6:30 last night.

They didn't and sheriff's deputies and park officials showed up around 10:30, handing out 169 dollar tickets for violation of park hours.

County Executive Joe Parisi says, "The point is there are resources available for folks and we can't allow them to keep illegally camping."

The argument now is about those resources.

Parisi says they've offered hotel vouchers, rides to shelters, help finding permanent housing and alcohol and drug counseling for any who want it.

But the campers say the shelters are not safe and say they have health concerns, like bed bugs.

They argue, because of those reasons they don't have anywhere else to go. They say they don't plan on leaving.

No one knows for sure what will happen next, but the campers say they will not be surprised if there are more tickets issued over the next few days.

When asked if more tickets will be handed out, Parisi said they'll do everything they can to convince the group that camping on county property is not a permanent solution.

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UPDATED Saturday, November 17, 2012 -- 7:30p.m.

MADISON -- Saturday, some neighbors met with the current Occupy Madison camp at Lake View Park.

Both current campers and neighbors were on hand voicing their opinions. Many neighbors of the park say they want them gone. However, campers say they're not going anywhere.

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UPDATED Thursday, November 15, 2012--5:40p.m.

MADISON -- The latest on the Occupy Madison encampment--we've been keeping you updated on the group's whereabouts: they recently moved from a site on East Washington Avenue to Lake View Park.

In recent months, it's generally acknowledged that the group has morphed into a camp site for the homeless. One camper tells us they don't like the culture or conditions in the area's shelters, saying they'd rather live in tents.

We talked with Dane County Executive Joe Parisi about the issue this afternoon. "We've actually been reaching out to most of that group," said Parisi. "It changes a little by the day since this summer when a lot of them were camping in a county park and there are resources available for those folks, there are shelter options, there are housing options. Unfortunately most of the people we've approached and offered these options to have refused to take advantage of that."

Parisi says they're continuing to try and convince the campers to take advantage of the available resources. He also says the 2013 county budget increases funding for homeless services by about a million dollars.

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UPDATED Sunday, November 11, 2012 --- 8:49 p.m.

Occupy Madison has moved to a new location on the city's north side.

The camp is located in Lake View Hill County Park next to the Department of Human Services.

Monday from 4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., County Supervisor Melissa Sargent will hold a listening session about the camp at the Department of Human Services building on Northport Drive.

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Posted Thursday, November 8, 2012--4:05p.m.

MADISON--Mayor Paul Soglin says he'll be looking to police for guidance on how to proceed with the latest re-incarnation of the Occupy Madison camp.

Originally Occupy started as a protest movement, but in recent months the camp is generally acknowledged to have morphed into a site for the homeless. Currently, they've pitched their tents along East Washington Avenue.

Mayor Soglin says they've been talking to the county and other agencies, about the situation. He says they've posted no trespassing signs at the site--and will act accordingly.
"The area's been posted, every tent has been leafleted and I believe that they've tried to talk to everyone who's on the site," said Soglin.

Soglin is hoping to have the group off the site tomorrow. If the group doesn't leave, Soglin says he'll wait for a recommendation from police.


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