Obama Hates the Homeless

Homeless men settling in for the evening at a subway stop near the White House in 2007. Washington's army of homeless are being cleared from the center of the US capital ahead of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama. (AFP/File/Paul J. Richards)

Homeless men settling in for the evening at a subway stop near the White House in 2007. Washington's army of homeless are being cleared from the center of the US capital ahead of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama. (AFP/File/Paul J. Richards)

A rather odd story by AFP about the sweeping away of DC’s homeless for Barack Obama’s inauguration — based entirely on statements from street vagrants.

Before sunrise on Thursday, Frank Mearns will leave the place he calls home, a stone’s throw from the White House, and join thousands of others in Washington who are upping sticks and moving out for the presidential inauguration.  But Mearns isn’t about to make a quick buck by renting out his pied-a-terre. Nor is he heading out of town on an inauguration escape holiday. He’s one of Washington’s army of homeless who are being cleared from the center of the US capital ahead of the historic inauguration of Barack Obama.

“There’s a sweep on Thursday at 5:00 am,” Mearns said.  “Everyone’s got to be out of here and stay out until next Thursday,” the 37-year-old said.

It’s 24 degrees out there as I type, a mere three blocks from Mearns’ erstwhile home-away-from-home.

According to Michael O’Neill of the National Coalition for the Homeless, up to 1,200 people live rough in the security zone, including on Pennsylvania Avenue, the grand boulevard which the inaugural parade will march down.

“Up to” is an interesting bit of weasel-wording.   Certainly, there seems to be a panhandler every couple of blocks in this part of town.  There’s one guy who screams “Change” every time I walk outside my building. (Perhaps this will stop once Obama is inaugurated, since Change is among his major campaign promises.)  But an “army” of them?  Or, at least, an oversized battalion?  That strikes me as implausible.

This, however, is rather amusing:

The effort to clear the streets of Washington of its homeless population was unlike anything that former homeless man David Pirtle has witnessed. “I was on the streets when George W. Bush had his second inauguration in 2005 and it was nothing like this. There were no large-scale sweeps. I slept on Pennsylvania Avenue the night before and the night after the inauguration,” said the 34-year-old who now works for the National Coalition for the Homeless.

For whatever reason, the security and related measures for this inauguration are exponentially more drastic than they were four years ago. They’re closing off more roads and bridges and otherwise making the northwestern quadrant a royal pain well in advance of the event. Despite the tongue-in-cheek headline, BTW, I don’t think Obama’s personally responsible for any of it.   But, rather clearly, there’s a radically different mindset on the part of the security bureaucracy and Official Washington about how to proceed this time.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    Did Kayne West write that headline?

  2. klevenstein says:

    Might the security procedures be different because they are expecting much, much larger crowds of participants this time?

  3. tom p says:

    I wonder how many “No Ni**er will ever be President of my country” letters they have already recieved?

    Psycho… they are out there.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s one guy who screams “Change” every time I walk outside my building.

    Perhaps some enterprising person will hire somebody to stand on the opposite street corner and yell “Hope!”

  5. PD Shaw says:

    It’s negative 24 degrees in Chicago. Obama will probably wonder why everyone in D.C. is wearing coats.

  6. William d'Inger says:

    Um, don’t we complain about human rights violations when communist countries do this?

  7. HiItsNino says:

    I’m so sick of the homeless. I know I’m not supposed to say it but all they do is walk around drunk asking for money. Oh, and steel. In DC of all places there are more than enough options for housing, programs, and rehab.

  8. Christopher says:

    Liberals-ANY liberals-could really care less about the homeless. They just wanna look like they do! I’m sure that anyone who reads this and counts themselves a liberal, you would agree w me, correct?

    This is especially true of Obama. He will pretend to care, but it is w the purpose of increasing the public sector. So instead of giving them shelter, he just has his people sweep them off of the street.

    Pathetic hypocrites. And Obama hasn’t even taken office yet!

  9. John Burgess says:

    I think tom p has it. There are, reportedly, an awful lot of racist threats being bandied about these days.

    I’ll wait to see the 2013 inauguration security setup before I conclude I’m in a fascist state.

  10. Michael says:

    Liberals-ANY liberals-could really care less about the homeless. They just wanna look like they do! I’m sure that anyone who reads this and counts themselves a liberal, you would agree w me, correct?

    Some people actually do care about the homeless. But most of us, liberal or conservative, want to care about the homeless because that would mean we’re good people, but ultimately it’s a difficult cause to devote much to.

  11. Bithead says:

    There seems something of a pattern, here.
    James, where is the article (I think) you wrote regard he Bejeng Olypics, and the hidning the slums faux storefronts going on there?