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The City of Orlando issued a statement Saturday after sending out a promotion for the city’s fireworks display which claimed that people “probably” don’t want to celebrate because America is full of “hate,” and adding “we can’t blame them.”

The municipality’s City News email on Friday opened with a downer premise, an appeal to come on out to see fireworks for their own sake, despite there being nothing good to like about the United States.

The official email’s entire pitch was focused on the idea of not wanting to celebrate the United States, which is what the backlash was focused on despite the Orlando Sentinel inexplicably downplaying it as merely being about “mentioning division.”

“A lot of people probably don’t want to celebrate our nation right now, and we can’t blame them. When there is so much division, hate and unrest, why on earth would you want to have a party celebrating any of it?” the email began.

The official release continued, saying “in all seriousness” that fireworks are great fun anyway. “Yes, America is in strife right now,” it reads. “But you know what…we already bought the fireworks.”

There was enough of a backlash that they sent out a “regrets” email to the same list on Saturday. Among those objecting publicly were the members of an Orlando police union, who wrote on Facebook that they “do not share the same views as the City of Orlando.”

“The members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 25 are proud Americans who will continue to serve with Courage, Pride and Commitment to uphold their oath to defend our community and this country. We do not share the same views as the City of Orlando and find their comments inflammatory and in poor taste,” the statement read.

Saturday’s clean-up email claimed the City of Orlando “sincerely regrets” the “negative impact” that the words had on “some” of the community, but did not say the words sorry or apologize.

After expressing “regret” that “some” were offended, “which was not our intent,” the email said “we value the freedoms we have in this country and are thankful to the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for those.”

Finally, after all that, they incongruously added they “take pride in celebrating the 4th of July,” framing it strictly around appreciation for veterans.

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Housing | Oakland: Homeless plaintiffs win $250,000 in legal settlement

OAKLAND — A group of homeless plaintiffs won $250,000 from the city after settling a lawsuit that accused officials of improperly evicting their East Oakland encampment.

The city also agreed to tweak its controversial encampment management policy, promising to give more notice to residents before clearing camps, and to take bad or dangerous weather into account before going through with encampment removals.

The City Council approved the settlement Tuesday morning in a unanimous vote, with Councilmembers Treva Reid and Loren Taylor absent.

“We are pleased to have resolved this longstanding litigation and welcome the opportunity to move forward,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in an emailed statement.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed in 2018 by residents living in an encampment community at Edes and South Elmhurst avenues, which included women and families who didn’t feel safe in other camps. Residents of the camp, dubbed the Housing and Dignity Village, originally sued in an attempt to stop the city from clearing the camp and displacing more than a dozen people. Their efforts were unsuccessful, and a federal judge allowed the city to go through with the removal. After the city cleared the camp, six displaced residents amended their complaint to accuse the city of improperly evicting them from the encampment they called home.

The city failed to offer shelter options that met residents’ needs, according to the complaint. Some residents were offered beds at St. Vincent de Paul in West Oakland, which limits the number of personal belongings guests can bring, does not allow pets, and is only open during the evening and at night. One resident would have been forced to abandon his dog. Another, who often worked the night shift at his job, would have been forced to quit.

And city workers trashed some residents’ belongings, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers. Even when items were saved, the city didn’t have a policy in place for residents to retrieve their belongings, according to the lawyers.

After the camp was closed, two of the women who had been living there relapsed because of the stress of being displaced, and one resident was raped, according to the lawsuit.

Attorney EmilyRose Johns, who represented the plaintiffs, said her team is “really happy” with the settlement, particularly the changes it makes to the encampment management policy. The policy, passed in 2020, dictates where and how unhoused people can’t camp, and governs the city’s efforts to remove camps. Per the settlement agreement, the city will tweak the policy to give most encampment residents more warning before their camp is cleared, Johns said. And it adds some barriers to protect residents from closures during dangerous weather — such as rain or smoky air from wildfires.

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“That is really, really traumatic and difficult physically for people,” Johns said of encampment closures that force people to pack up their entire lives and move. “So to do that in rain, to do that in bad air quality, to do that in extreme heat or extreme cold only terrorizes people further and adds to the inherent harm of living out of doors.”

Johns declined to provide more details about the terms of the settlement until the city confirmed that they were public.

Though Johns was grateful that the city made changes to the encampment management policy, she said the settlement fails to address the crux of the problem — a lack of housing and adequate shelter options for people living in camps.

“The missing piece to this settlement that the city really needs to start thinking about,” she said, “is where you’re going to place people. Where people are going to go when you displace them.”

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