SARASOTA — About two dozen demonstrators conducted a sit-in protest at Selby Five Points Park Monday evening.
The protesters objected to the complete removal of benches from the park. They brought their own lawn chairs or just sat on the grass.
City Commissioners ordered the removal last week to eliminate the massing of transients, who, residents say, monopolize all of the bench space.
Demonstrators were homeless supporters and the homeless themselves.
“The park is open to everyone,” Sarasota resident Hedda Matza-Haughton said. “I come from New York. Everyone sits on benches in Central Park, whether you’re homeless or not.”
A homeless woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said removing the benches to rid the park of transients is wrong.
“They shouldn’t do this just because someone wants to sit on a bench,” she said. “I could see it if someone is sleeping on the benches.”
Downtown residents say many homeless do sleep on the benches and sit in them for hours at a time, which prevents others from using them.
The city plans to study the effects of the bench removal in three months and then decide whether the benches should return to the park.
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