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Police Occupy City Park, Order Homeless To Leave

June 3, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Police in riot gear moved into a city park early today, scattering homeless squatters who had turned it into a filthy, garbage-strewn tent city.

Police arrested seven people for violating park rules, and charged four with resisting arrest. But officers and witnesses agreed there was little or no violence.

About 100 helmeted officers began shutting down Tompkins Square Park at dawn, carrying out Mayor David Dinkin’s plan to close a section of the park that had become living quarters for as many as 200 homeless people.

″At 6 a.m. today, the officers made an announcement that the park was closed for renovations,″ said Sgt. Tina Mohrmann, a police spokesman. ″They began asking people to take their possessions and leave.″

The police ″scattered them like rats,″ said Greg Salgado, who lives across the street. He said the squatters didn’t put up a fight.

One squatter, Monte Pettiford, sat in a lawn chair a block from the park and described what happened.

″It was like a battalion of them,″ he said of the police. ″I just grabbed what I thought was valuable to me. I took what I could.″

The park was closed this morning as dozens of sanitation and parks workers, some wearing masks, used rakes, shovels and a bulldozer to clean up debris left by the homeless. They included a foot-long wooden cross, an audio cassette labeled ″party tape,″ and a Christmas tree stand.

Community residents have complained the park has become a dirty, refuse- filled campground for the homeless on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

The decision to close the park came in the wake of a Memorial Day melee in which 18 police officers were injured by a bottle-throwing mob. Thirteen people were arrested in the disturbance.

A far larger riot in August 1988 resulted in 52 people requiring hospital treatment. Videotapes taken by local residents showed police beating bystanders and prompted a review of the way police handle crowds.

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