SYDNEY ‘TENT CITY’
New law that allows police to evict tent dwellers from business district draws flak
SYDNEY New South Wales Greens member of parliament David Shoebridge said as the tents came down.
“To respond to a homelessness crisis by sending in the police, threatening to arrest people and confiscate their last few possessions, I think that is a new low for politics in Australia,” he said.
Critics of the new law expressed concerns it could be used to break up protests in the city, but Berejiklian stressed it was specifically targeted at “unauthorised activity” such as the makeshift campsite.
“What is happening in Martin Place is beyond protest because it’s unauthorised activity which is compromising the public safety of those most vulnerable, but also the safety of the community,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this week.
The camp was just metres from the central bank and the New South Wales state Parliament in Australia’s largest city, which is ranked second on a list of the world’s least affordable housing.
The group of dwellers had camped out in Martin Place since the end of last year beside a building site, but more recently pitched the tents after the area was closed for construction.
Lanz Priestley, who has been dubbed the tent city’s mayor, said people were moving to a crowd-funded location indoors, after residents were asked by police to pack up.
“Our intention is to go indoors now... where everybody that ever has a need for safety, a roof or food, can go,” he said.
“This is not just for homeless people, this is for anyone that falls through the cracks.”
Social advocates warned Sydney’s high prices were placing more pressure on those struggling to afford a roof over their heads.
More than 100,000 people across Australia were reported homeless in the 2011 national census, with welfare groups expecting the most recent survey held last year to show an increase. AFP
A homeless man eating breakfast at dawn next to tents belonging to homeless people in Martin Place, which has become known as ‘Tent City’, in the central business district of Sydney yesterday.