In Sept of 2018, Monroe Park re-opened after undergoing a $6.3 million dollar, 22-month renovation. The reasoning? To ‘beautify’ the park.
But the actual cost to the city was one of cultural diversity, as well as a place were citizens of all economic statuses gathered, relaxed, held protest, and where it’s citizens lended a helping to the city’s underprivileged.
For years, the park had been a source of controversy because of the homeless that would gather there. The city moved shelters farther away from the park, stepped up enforcement in the park. Would re-direct homeless kicked out of other parks to Monroe park, then use Monroe as a staging area for arresting them centrally.
So when the Monroe Park Conservancy was formed, a private group, made up of a very privileged group of people, wanted to gain control of it. Folks began protesting.
And it was in this spirit, that Gary Llama wrote and released the song and video ‘Keep Monroe Park Public!’.
So what was the result? Richmond Food Not Bombs who had consistently served a Sunday meal (open to ANYONE of any income bracket) in the park since 1994 (22 years!), was kicked out. And benches were removed. And the park redesigned in such a way as to prevent any kind of gathering by the homeless population. All under lease from the City to the conservancy for $1 dollar.
What left: a people’s park. What we got: a disneyfied version of the same shit they build in suburban walkable malls: privately controlled squares masquerading as public spaces.