Protester Puts Coffins on Tucson Sidewalks

Some call the blue boxes Dream Pods. Others compare them to coffins. Tucson, the city where the blue boxes showed up became known as ‘Box Town, USA.” The boxes were placed there by homeless activist Jon McLane. It was part of the movement to decriminalize homelessness.

The blue boxes dotted the sidewalks and were quickly being occupied by the houseless community. It was a mark of shame for Tucson city and business leaders as they were trying to clean up and improve the downtown area. Homeless people living in coffin-like boxes was not a good selling point. Business owners and residents in the area were hating on the tiny dwellings.

The box dwellers, however, had no complaints. It gave them a safe place to sleep, a very tiny house, something not afforded to people living on the streets. Jon McLane and other Tucson Activists organized the movement to decriminalize homelessness in Tucson. They used the Veinte de Augosto park as a staging ground. The city fought the movement but was stymied when organizers took them to court.

The area was originally named Safe Park by homeless activist, Jon McLane and others who organized the movement. It was not safe, however, as the police still harassed the people sleeping on the sidewalk for a variety of reasons. The city also closed the park. It was a good tool for the police as anyone who stepped inside the closed park could be ticketed or arrested.

The harassment continued in spite of a city code that said people could sleep on the sidewalk during night time hours.

The hated blue sized coffin boxes were located around Veinte de Augosto park, which named for the birthdate of Tucson, August 20, 1774.

This is not the first time the park had became a point of contention. Inside the park is a statue of Poncho Villa, installed in 1981. Villa was a leader in the Mexican Revolution who was celebrated in Mexico as a champion of oppressed peasants. The plaque at the statue’s base says it was a gift made “in friendship” from Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo.

The fighting spirit of Pancho Villa seems to have been reignited. Homeless activists were emboldened by a court injunction that deemed what they were doing legal. City officials were left scratching their heads. The residents of safe Park, for the most part were left alone. After years at risk on the street they got a break.

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