New York police expel camp of homeless from Harlem for Pope’s visit to nearby Catholic school

Police have expelled batches of homeless people from their settlements in Harlem ahead of the pope’s arrival to New York City.

More than a dozen people who live under the Metro-North railway on East 125th Street were told to move elsewhere on Wednesday, two days before the pontiff visits a nearby Catholic school.

The move has been met with outrage, both from the targeted groups and from homeless charities, who insist the Roman Catholic leader would be less than pleased to hear his presence is alienating the impoverished.

‘I can’t imagine the pope approving of that,’ William Burnett, a Catholic and a board member of Picture The Homeless, told Newsweek.

He said the city is ‘using him as an excuse’ to drive out the homeless by citing security concerns.

‘Even those who are excited about the pope have some bad feelings about the visit,’ Burnett added.

The East Harlem school hosting the pope, Our Lady Queen of Angels School, is a 20 minute walk south on 112th Street, where it meets 3rd Avenue.

One of the men who lives at the 125th Street camp, on the corner of Park Avenue, fumed to the New York Post: ‘F*** him,’ in reference to the pope.

‘He don’t live here. We live here. How can they move me for someone coming here for a couple hours? Just because we are a subculture doesn’t mean we don’t exist.’

He added: ‘They ain’t no Roman Catholics here. Go to Washington Heights or something where you got Roman Catholics. This is Harlem.’

Another said: ‘They just kicked us out. They said, “Important people is coming by”.

‘They say if we don’t move, they will give us a ticket or lock us up, and they don’t want to lock us up.’

A woman who also lives at the site told the paper: ‘They have been coming regularly, but more now that the pope is coming.’

The controversy lies in stark contrast with the pope’s primary agenda: to tackle poverty and reach out to the homeless.

The pontiff has made clear efforts to interact with people waiting by fences at every stop he has made on his tour of Cuba and America so far. Witnesses remark how he stops and listens to what well-wishers have to say, often offering a response or advice.

In his opening speech at the White House, Pope Francis hailed the sense of community as one of America’s ‘most guarded possessions’.

He said: ‘American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.

‘With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions.

He later added: ‘I would like all men and women of good will in this great nation to support the efforts of the international community to protect the vulnerable in our world and to stimulate integral and inclusive models of development, so that our brothers and sisters everywhere may know the blessings of peace and prosperity which God wills for all his children.’

Source: The DailyMail

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