Salem citizen activist Mark Wigg doesn't mince words. Here's his advance prepared remarks that closely reflect part of what he said in public testimony at last night's City Council meeting.
Below I'll share my thoughts about what Wigg says.
I ask you, Steve Powers and Peter Fernandez to resign because your criminally negligent policies and actions may have led to the rape and murder of at least a dozen women in Wallace Marine Park.
When you forced the homeless to leave downtown Salem, you told them that they could camp at Wallace Marine Park and Cascade Gateway Park. You were aware that the homeless downtown included violent felons and psychotic men. You concentrated these people in the two parks.
In addition to the men you sent to Wallace, you sent women and girls. You told them the only place for them to camp was in these parks. So you took rabbits and tossed them in a cage with wolves. Is there anyone who couldn’t predict the outcome?
Imagine a young woman that was evicted from her apartment or is fleeing domestic violence. She grabs a few things that are precious to her, a sleeping bag, a tent and a few clothes. She goes to Wallace Marine Park because that is where you told her to camp. She gets there and sets up her tent.
That night or maybe the next, she wakes when a man cuts open her tent and sits on her while she is in her sleeping bag. She can’t move her arms or legs, she is helpless. Think of the terror and hopelessness she feels as clothes are stuffed in her mouth to stop her cries for help.
A few minutes later, she is dead. The murderer drags her to the river’s edge in her sleeping bag, tosses a few rocks in the bag and ties it up. Dragging the bag to knee deep water, the murderer lets it sink and drift downstream.
I have seen the torn tents with the precious personal effects left behind. The sleeping bag and girls are gone. We may never know their names. Their things will be washed away in the next high water or piled with the other trash that is occasionally picked up at the camps.
You didn’t have to be so cruel, but it was so much easier than doing the right thing.
I hope tonight when you are about to fall asleep that you will imagine the terror and pain you caused and are causing. I hope you feel enough shame to resign so more competent and compassionate leaders can take your place.
It's great that Wigg drew attention to the plight of homeless people who are camping in the two Salem parks. I haven't spent time in downtown lately, but I believe the homeless population there has been markedly reduced. So for most people they're out of mind if not visible.
And women must have a tougher time living in the parks than men do. The scenario Wigg describes of being raped in a tent likely occurs, and maybe even is common.
The notion that women have been killed and their bodies dumped in the river is much less believable. Seemingly there would be talk of missing homeless people, since the women must have friends and relatives who would wonder why they haven't been seen for a long time.
That said, hopefully Mayor Bennett, City Manager Powers, and the city councilors will take seriously the basic message Wigg gave them last night. Salem's homeless women are having a tough time in the camps set up in the two parks. This situation shouldn't last much longer, especially with bad weather and winter being close at hand.
Photo of Wallace Marine Park in April 2020 StreetRoots story
Last night the City Council approved money for security services at Marion Square Park and Wallace Marine Park through fiscal year 2021. That covers the period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
It would be horrible if homeless people are still living in the parks through the end of June next year. Sure, it is better to have some security services, rather than no security at all. Much better still would be for those homeless people to have options other than camping out at Salem parks.
Here's what was approved.
Parks Security Services
Fund 101, General Fund, Non Departmental
From: Non Departmental, Contingency, 101-60961000-61110, $312,000
To: Non Departmental, Materials and Services, 101-60961000-52670, $312,000
During FY 2020 the City Council approved funding for security services at Marion Square Park. The services were expanded to include Wallace Marine Park and provide two personnel from 8:00am until 12:00am. The City Manager has directed that this service continue into FY 2021 and funding was not included in the FY 2021 budget. This action provides funding for this service through the end of FY 2021.
This is a video of yesterday's City Council meeting that starts when Mark Wigg presents his testimony. Watch the video, and you'll see Wigg also describe how he may have prevented a wildfire at Wallace Marine Park through some cookies.