Medford police clear encampment from park, JPR reporter among 11 arrested

By Erik Neumann (Jefferson Public Radio)
Sept. 23, 2020 1:53 p.m.

About two dozen Medford police officers moved in to the city’s Hawthorne Park at 8 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.

Medford police at Hawthorne Park in Medford, Ore., on Tuesday, Sept. 22 while clearing an encampment of people experiencing homelessness.

Medford police at Hawthorne Park in Medford, Ore., on Tuesday, Sept. 22 while clearing an encampment of people experiencing homelessness.

Erik Neumann / OPB

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, second-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 said she had recording equipment in the park while officers were telling her to move to a press location.


Related: Reporter April Ehrlich on reporting on wildfires while evacuating from them

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

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 said 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 said.

According to Medford police, the nonprofit Rogue Retreat was at Hawthorne Park Tuesday 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.


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