Homeless advocates declared victory after a state judge acquitted them on trespassing charges in connection with a protest encampment they erected on city-owned property.
Police arrested the advocates, Greg Williams and Mark Colville of the Amistad Catholic Worker House, on May 16, a day after they and others set up an encampment for the homeless on a city-owned lot on Rosette Street in the Hill. The city dismantled the camp and arrested the pair when they refused to leave.
On Tuesday Superior Court Judge Steven Eckert found the pair not guilty on a charge of simple trespassing.
During the trial, Eckert questioned Livable City Initiative (LCI) Deputy Director Frank D’Amore, who was subpoenaed to testify, on the precise definition of “proper use” of city-owned property. The questioning went into detail about various kinds of city-owned lots, which have a variety of uses.
“The city’s claims that what we were doing is illegal, they really don’t fly… They were not enforcing any particular land-use law,” Colville said Wednesday. “The law is not an obstacle to people taking up residence on public land.”
Mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer said the city still believes in the wake of the ruling that it has tools, including the health code, to enforce compliance with legal uses of city property.
The prosecutor in the case, Jonathan Lewin, could not be reached for comment.