ALBANY -- Twenty-five people gathered in front of City Hall on Jan. 17 to protest the eviction of homeless encampments on the Albany Bulb. The protesters included residents of the Bulb, lawyers working on their behalf, Albany residents and other supporters.

Attendees spoke about the plight of the homeless before marching to Solano Avenue, where they camped out on the street to symbolize what they say will happen if the long-standing encampment on the former waterfront garbage dump is cleared.

Marchers carried signs reading, among others, "Keep the Bulb wild," "Out of Bulb = On the street," and "Resist eviction! Fight gentrification!"

Protester Karen White told the assembly, "I am an outside agitator. And I'm an outside agitator because I can't afford to live here. Even though I work here."

Osha Neumann, a lawyer working with Bulb campers on a lawsuit challenging the action, told the group that, "Albany will become a place where it's illegal to be homeless. That's just one aspect of this struggle."

He said that a second aspect to consider is "whether you save nature at the expense of people," adding that support for the evictions by environmental groups is a "tragedy."

Albany has begun a program to remove the homeless population from the Bulb so the land can be turned over to the East Bay Regional Park District to become part of the Sylvia McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.

The council voted last May to begin enforcing the city's anti-camping ordinance beginning last October, although that date got delayed due to protests and the lawsuit. In December, the city began warning campers and arresting those with outstanding warrants and for drug offenses.

Also last May, the council approved plans to find housing for the campers. The city has claimed seven people have been housed thanks to the programs, although two subsequently lost their housing. It is estimated that 60 people live on the Bulb.

The city has two mobile trailers at the waterfront to serve as a temporary shelter.

The capacity, according to the city, is 30 people, but only one to three people have used the shelter on any given night.

As part of their lawsuit, Bulb residents have claimed the temporary shelter is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Amber Whitson, a resident of the Bulb, summed up protesters' feelings by saying, "I believe that the Bulb should remain a place where freedom can happen."

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