Saturday, December 09, 2006

Students protest treatment of area homeless


SARASOTA -- More than a dozen college students slept outside the courthouse Friday night to protest the treatment of the homeless. They just didn't expect it to be so cold.

The students bundled up and tried to keep moving as the temperatures dropped into the 40s and the wind ripped through their layers of clothing. Some students had sleeping bags and others made makeshift beds out of miscellaneous clothing.

They say it made the experience of being homeless for a night even more realistic.

"I'm a doctor's kid," said Vincent Castillenti, a 20-year-old University of South Florida student. "I've never had to sleep outside on the street, but it's people that have to do this every night whether it's boiling hot or freezing cold."

More than 50 people gathered at Five Points Park on Friday afternoon and marched to the courthouse on Ringling Boulevard to protest the city's no-camping rule, which they say has led to arrests and harassment of the homeless.

A group of students got the idea for the protest while spending Friday afternoons feeding homeless people at Five Points Park.

"It makes me feel good that they are out here," said Reginald Sykes, who has been homeless for two years. "It's good that they want to make a change, and I wanted to be out here to let my voice be heard."

Sarasota was named the "meanest city in America" by the National Homeless Coalition for the no-camping ordinance. But city leaders agreed that the rule works, and it was upheld by a circuit judge as being constitutional.

"We wanted to do an act of civil disobedience to let people know this was going on in our city," said Dell MacLean, a 26-year-old New College student.

Thank you for your good work on behalf of the homeless!
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