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November 3, 2009

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   This picture was taken April 25, 2009.
   The woman huddled beneath the umbrella was a fixture in that bus shelter all spring and summer. Like many homeless people, she slept during the relative safety of daylight hours so she could be alert during the dangerous night.
   Today was sunny and springlike.
   Sarah, Adria and I rode our bikes to Chupacabra for my first bite of Mexican food in almost two months.
   On Greenwood Ave, near the zoo entrance, 4 cop cars were spread all over the road, their rooflights flashing. At first we thought it had to be a big accident or apprehension of a violent criminal but in fact all we saw was the same homeless woman in tears being stuffed in the back of a cruiser, her meager possessions left behind on the sidewalk.
   We threaded slowly between the cars feeling disbelief and pity but we did not stop. I felt the shame of an obedient 1930's German mutely watching a Nazi roundup. I wanted to ask what they were going to do with her stuff but some combination of fear and conditioning kept us moving right along. Moments later a line of school kids on a field trip marching single file erupted in a chorus to admonish us: "Helmets! Helmets!" What a bunch of self-righteous little snitches. Dirty rat-fink junior fascists. Tomorrow's informants calling for police sweeps of harmless encampments.
   After lunch on the ride back she and 2 of the cop cars were gone and a new victim was being arrested, was sitting patiently on a bumper. The woman's things were still there on the sidewalk, so vivid in the sunshine. How is it possible the police can so casually dispossess the homeless, mercilessly separating the poorest from what little they have?
   Today I made it easier for them by remaining silent. If nothing else, challenging the cops would have let the woman know that someone cared and believed she should be treated with dignity. Maybe she would have felt less profoundly alone. I failed her and myself. Next time I hope to do better.