Viral video: Jogger tosses homeless man's belongings in Oakland's Lake Merritt

- Many people are reacting with outrage and anger after an Oakland man posted video of a jogger dispersing and throwing a homeless man's belongings into Lake Merritt and into the garbage. 

The video has gone viral with thousands of people re-tweeting and sharing JJ Harris's post since he put up the video on social media last Friday. 

"Yesterday in Oakland jogger found throwing a peaceful homeless man's possessions in the Lake. What has this town come to?!" Harris wrote on Twitter. 

In the video, you can see and hear bystanders confronting the man, asking him what he's doing and telling him to stop.

The man responded, "Picking up the trash. What do want me to do? It was spilling everywhere." 

On social media, people called out the jogger with one Twitter user describing his actions as "awful, cruel, and cold." Others pointed out that scattering the homeless man's belongings around and throwing them into the water was doing more harm by trashing the lake and the surrounding area.

Many suggested that the homeless person was already dealing with stress living on the streets and that seeing all of his possessions scattered and tossed out would make his situation worse.

At least one person agreed with the man's actions and said that people should not have to walk or jog around piles of items like that, calling the collection "trash." 

Harris said that police were called and officers arrived as the jogger left the area to continue his workout.

He said officers explained, they couldn't do anything because the items were considered debris. "Only possibility is he 'may' get a fine for littering," Harris wrote on Facebook. 

The video has prompted a GoFundMe effort to help the homeless man who has now been identified as Drew.

The fundraising effort was started by Kenzie Smith, the man at the center of the Lake Merritt barbecuing while black controversy, which began when police were called on him for barbecuing with a charcoal grill by the lake back in April. 

"Like the thousands of other people in the Bay Area without homes, Drew is one of our neighbors. We're disgusted that someone thought it was ok to treat Drew this way and want to show him through our care that what happened to him is unacceptable," Smith wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Harris encouraged people to share his video with others and said, "This is ridiculous that these are the kind of people who are living in Oakland now."

"When I came around the lake and I got closer to the situation, I saw he was throwing away the homeless man's stuff who sleeps there every day and I see him every day. I give him a nod and he smiles back,” Harris told KTVU. “I was thinking of the Childish Gambino song is in my blood now, thinking “This is America.” We can use our phones for good. It’s one of our most powerful tools for social justice.” 

Oakland City Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhany and Abel Guillen said citizens should call 311 or go to 311.org [the website is currently under construction] to report debris and hazardous materials.

Homeless advocates said don't assume a homeless person's belongings are garbage.

"They [individuals and Caltrans workers] throw out something like people's social security mail, their identification, or their medications, and it could absolutely destabilize somebody and interfere with their ability to access housing, access medical treatment, and access things to get out of homelessness,” said Heather Freinkel, an attorney with the Alameda County Homeless Action Center. 

Freinkel said there are organizations such as Eden I&R that a person can call at 211 to get a homeless person help. 

City Councilmember McElhaney said it’s illegal for any individual to steal, vandalize, or trash someone’s belongings. 

“Think of it like this, if I leave my bicycle unlocked in a park, it may appear vulnerable, but taking it without my permission is theft, and theft is punishable by law,” said McElhaney via email. 

McElhaney went on to write that no one should attempt to remove a homeless person from public spaces. 

“People who are interested in maintaining our public parks may volunteer with OakPRYD -by becoming a park steward or joining any of the numerous volunteer groups that contribute to our civic pride.”

 

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