The Last Man Standing at Parnell Park

The Last Man Standing at Parnell Park

Contributing Editor Susan Cameron has participated in the twice-monthly Parnell Park peace breakfasts, a project of Everyone In, First Christian Church, First United Methodist Church, Social Justice Healing, Sustainable City, and more, since November 2019.

The purpose of these breakfasts is to experience shared humanity, break bread together, invite conversation, and build relationships.

As a result of the relationships built between Cameron and residents of Parnell Park, she was permitted by several of those unhoused residents to hear and retell their stories. And because of her press credentials, law enforcement permitted Cameron to witness the closing of Parnell Park on Monday, January 27, 2020.

This is the story of the last man standing at Parnell Park.

View this story as a slideshow.

January 27, 2020, 3:03 pm
The park will close at sunset. Only six or seven members of the Parnell Park encampment remain. Most are preparing to leave quickly, but one remains uncertain.
After many broken promises, Johnny has asked for an offer of housing and services to be put in writing. A Whittier police officer tries to persuade Johnny to accept and leave the park without written assurances, as a friend looks on.
3:32 pm
LAHSA Homeless Engagement Team Manager Dale Wilson has experienced how hard it is to gain trust. He has spent time in prison and has two strikes. Lots of people may offer lots of help, but it doesn’t often materialize. When it does, it takes a long time. He considers the people who helped him move from homelessness to his present job “a miracle”.
3:42 pm
Whittier employees drag an abandoned tent out of the picnic area.
4:06 pm
A LAHSA worker discusses options with two camp members while a WPD officer looks on.
4:07 pm
Two encampment members have moved to the sidewalk across Mulberry Drive in unincorporated Whittier, L.A. County Sheriff’s jurisdiction.
4:14 pm
Omar is getting ready to leave, but none of the bicycle tires left behind will hold air.
4:14 pm
Another resident loads her belongings on a friend’s truck as a member of the LA County Sheriff’s HOST team continues to negotiate with Johnny.
4:36 pm
L.A. County Sheriff and WPD record a resident’s decision to abandon a large amount of packed belongings.
Remembering Corinna Megan Ortega: October 14, 1997 – January 1, 2020
4:41 pm
Candles continue to light the site of Megan’s tent.
4:54 pm
A friend makes one last offer to Johnny, then says her goodbyes.
5:00 pm
Omar says goodbye to Johnny and Dean Wilson of LAHSA.

Johnny’s videotaped statement on his decision to stay until Parnell Park’s closure and to allow himself to be arrested can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/-bpx_CuBzwk

5:19 pm
The sun has set. Police approach Johnny, the last remaining member of the encampment, to enforce curfew.
5:23 pm
Floodlights illuminate the scene as a WPD officer asks Johnny to leave.
5:29 pm
Another officer approaches.
5:31 pm
A moment of humor as Johnny laughs with officers. They have reached an understanding about what is going to happen, but there is no hurry.
5:36 pm
Police walk handcuffed Johnny to a waiting police car. The peacefulness and respect shown by both Johnny and the assembled WPD officers brings to mind a well-ordered act of civil disobedience.
5:39 pm
Johnny has been taken into custody and waits in the back seat of a WPD vehicle that will take him away for booking. Parnell Park is closed.

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