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Medford Police Clear Encampment From Park, JPR Reporter Among 11 Arrested

Medford police at Hawthorne Park on Tuesday while an encampment was being cleared.
Erik Neumann/JPR
Medford police at Hawthorne Park on Tuesday while an encampment was being cleared.

The 'tent city' popped up in Hawthorne Park after the Almeda Fire burned a large swath of the Bear Creek Greenway, driving out homeless campers.

UPDATED: 4:40 p.m. ... About two dozen Medford police officers moved into the park at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning to evict as many as 100 people who had set up camp over the past week-and-a-half in the city's main downtown park.

About 24 hours after giving notice to the campers that they had to leave, police began ordering people out and dismantling the camp.

By late morning, the park had been cleared. A backhoe was removing debris and piles of trash, and several dozen homeless people were loading belongings into trucks and gathering in groups across the street from the park. Many said they had been camping in the Greenway before the Almeda Fire swept through on Sept. 8.

According to Medford Police Lt. Mike Budreau, 11 people were arrested during the sweep. Among them was JPR reporter April Ehrlich, who had been on the scene since dawn to cover the anticipated police action. Ehrlich was arrested on charges of interfering with a peace officer, 2nd degree trespassing, and resisting arrest. She posted bail and was released Tuesday afternoon.

Nick Stanley was volunteering with the park encampment when Ehrlich was arrested. He says she had recording equipment in the park while officers were telling her to move to a press location.

"It did look to me that she was walking towards that point," Stanley says. "And then the next thing I saw they had her bent over with her hands behind her back and she was yelling."

Lt. Budreau declined to be interviewed about Ehrlich's arrest but in a statement to JPR wrote that officers warned her of the park closure, directing her instead to a “media staging area” at the entrance of the park.

“After April declined to go to the media staging area, she proceeded to enter the park against numerous officers’ orders and was placed under arrest for violating the closure of the park,” Budreau wrote.

According to a statement on Facebook, the Medford Police Department says Hawthorne Park is now closed to the public for at least 48-hours by order of the City Manager "to allow for sanitation, cleaning, and inspection of City property."

Randi Vigil is a volunteer who had been helping at the encampment giving out hot food, sanitary items, clothing, and tents.

“Not a lot of resources were opened up for the homeless community of Medford and they were just as affected by the fires,” Vigil says.

According to Medford police, the non-profit Rogue Retreat was at Hawthorne Park this morning helping connect homeless people with resources.

On Sunday, officers came through the park giving notice that people needed to be out by the 28th. Then, Monday morning they said people needed to be out by Tuesday morning, according to Vigil.

This story will be updated.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.