KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Seven protesters were arrested and four officers were injured during a clash at a homeless camp on the eastside of Kalamazoo Friday.
It happened two days after police cleared people out of the homeless encampment at Ampersee near Hotop Avenue in the city’s Eastside area. Signs were posted warning that trespassing enforcement would begin at noon Friday.
Sarah Gerstner has been volunteering at the homeless camp since an outbreak of parvo was discovered there in August.
She was near the adjacent lot Friday afternoon when officers with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety arrived.
“Everyone was kind of on edge. We knew it was coming,” Gerstner said.
Officers told everyone to leave. At that point, Gerstner says things became volatile very quickly.
“Very loud. Things were being thrown, trash,” Gerstner said. “It was scary.”
KDPS says the activists violently clashed with the officers.
Four officers were hurt and a total of 10 people were detained. Police say all 10 people were protesters, not dwellers of the camp.
“There’s people who you’ve seen on the news constantly that are very vocal, as far as the unhoused population,” Gerstner said. “Then, there are the people that are in the background, just trying to figure out where they’re going to go.”
Gerstner says the sights and sounds from Friday afternoon brought on overwhelming anxiety for dwellers who could be experiencing mental illness.
“Screaming, yelling, police coming in, things being thrown, loud noises with the city coming in with endloaders,” Gerstner said. “It’s a scary environment for humans and animals.”
Friday afternoon’s events drove those displaced a few yards away, but they weren’t left alone.
Deon McKinley, who owns MVP Auto Sales just down the corner from the site, offered his flatbed tow truck to help those unable to carry their belongings make the trip to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, where officers and volunteers encouraged them to stay.
“I’m not for hire, but I’m going to help them,” McKinley said. “I hate to see someone displaced. Period. So, I don’t mind.”
But Good Samaritans aside, Gerstner reinforces the call for helping those without a home.
“Everybody has talked about housing, mental health and everything like that. None of those services were here today when this stuff is going down,” Gerstner said. “These people need their support here now.”
Of the ten people detained, three were cited for trespassing and released, while the rest were taken to the county jail, officials say.
The seven arrested protesters face multiple charges, including trespassing, resisting and obstruction. One person also faces felony assault on an officer, authorities say.
The four officers were treated for minor injuries and are back on patrol.