Homeless protest removal of downtown Nashville benches - | WBTV Charlotte

Homeless protest removal of downtown Nashville benches

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Is Nashville trying to chase the homeless out of downtown?

That's the concern from some advocates who said public benches have been disappearing.

With so many additions in recent years downtown, you may have missed the one thing disappearing.

"They were here one day and gone the next," said Barbara Graham, who is homeless.

Graham was holding a sign in protest along Church Street this morning because of the disappearing benches.

"It made me kind of angry," said Graham. "Everyone deserves a place to sleep, even if it is out on a bench in the middle of downtown."

About a dozen homeless advocates picketed today, pointing to what they believe to be a conspiracy against the city's homeless.

They count 29 benches removed in recent months. Many of them used to sit in the parts of downtown frequented by the city's homeless.

Nubs of steel now mark the spots with some empty slabs bordered by fences.

"And down here, downtown benches are part of what makes a downtown delightful to be in," said Samuel Lester of the Nashville Homeless Organizing Coalition. "The general attitude increasingly of many cities is to criminalize the homeless."

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for Public Works called the bench removals an issue of safety.

She challenged the protesters' number saying crews only removed 10 or 12 benches in the past two years, and only then because of damage. The department flatly denied there was an agenda.

But clearly tonight some don't buy it.

"Even though the benches are gone, we're still down here," said Graham. "The homeless population isn't going anywhere."

Those picketers collected signatures on a petition today. They want the benches returned and want an explanation for why they disappeared in the first place.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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