PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia police have given the homeless encampment on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway a “final warning” to leave as the stalemate with the city continues, according to sources. Dwellers said there was an increased police presence at the camp on Friday evening, but those officers have now left.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you must leave the premises. You were previously notified that you cannot stay here, and you need to remove yourself and all of your possessions,” a Philadelphia police officer can be heard in a video posted on social media.
The warning came around 5 p.m. on Friday and the homeless encampment off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway of about 100 people quickly ballooned to about four times its population.
“We put on every platform that we could for people to come down,” Sterling Johnson, a camp organizer, said. “We mobilized people to come down here to defend the camp. We have about 300 to 400 people inside and also doing a little breathing exercise, a calming exercise.”
Johnson says though the police are gone, those at the camp are prepared to defend what they believe is their right to occupy the space.
“There is too much fight in us to let hundreds of people go unhoused forever,” Johnson said.
The encampment is one of two in the city, both formed about three months ago.
Activists are demanding Philadelphia officials provide permanent housing for the homeless.
Mayor Jim Kenney and his team contend organizers are not willing to negotiate, and so far, the mayor has threatened to clear the camps three times. Each deadline passed without action.
“I feel sorry for the mayor in some ways because it’s a rock and a hard place,” Charles Gallagher, a sociology and criminal justice professor at La Salle University, said.
Gallagher says the city simply doesn’t have the capacity to house its homeless population.
“There is a supply and demand issue,” Gallagher said, “that there is not enough affordable housing or subsidized housing to get people who are homeless into shelter.”
Gallagher worries with deadlines coming and going, state resources may eventually be brought in.
“I think at some point, the mayor is going to have his hand forced,” he said. “You can only rattle your saber so many times before people see you as ineffective.”
Encampment organizers extended an offer for the mayor to meet them at the camp for breakfast and continue negotiations. No word from the mayor’s office whether that will happen.
There’s no timeframe on, if or when the police department will forcibly remove those living at the camp anytime soon.
CBS3’s Howard Monroe and Greg Argos contributed to this report.