While I'm not usually given to seeing political events through a mystical lens, I'm thinking the convergence of circumstances surrounding this week's Nickelsville encampment can only be attributed to a perfect alignment of the stars. We're just not clever or powerful enough to plan this one.
The encampment, named to recall the Hoovervilles of the '30s, happened to occur the same week of a proposed financial industry bailout that, combined with other recent Hail Mary maneuvers to rescue the economy, may run over a trillion dollars. The coming depression has led to lowered revenue projections at all levels of government that will put already tenuous human service programs at great risk during the upcoming budget session.
The land upon which Nickelsville sits is one of the four sites proposed by the city for a new seven-acre jail facility. While Real Change is building a No New Jail campaign to challenge the idea that more cops, more arrests of people who are poor and disproportionately Black, and ever-expanding numbers of those behind bars is an effective or moral use of resources, the siting of Nickelsville on the West Marginal Way land parcel was a happy accident. For security reasons, we didn't know where the site would be until an hour before we arrived at 4 a.m. Monday morning.
Last night, the Highland Park Action Committee voted to support the encampment until other use can be found for the land.
The mayor has chosen to pretend that this survival effort -- organized by a loose but potent grouping of homeless people and advocates -- is just another unauthorized encampment to be posted for clearance and dismantled in three days. Nickelsville is much more than that. It's a sign of the times.