Updated @ 9:45 a.m.
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A well-known advocate for the homeless has filed a federal lawsuit against the city for blocking efforts to establish a tent city in south St. Louis.
The Reverend Larry Rice and a handful of others were hauled away in handcuffs last month after they refused to leave the proposed encampment site at I-44 and Vandeventer.
Rice tells KMOX News the city had no legal right to kick him off the land that he had leased for “Integrity Village”.
“There were no public hearings on this,” Rice said. “There were no public safety violations…there were no open fires, there was no rotting food, we had water, we had our own Porta Potties.”
The proposed site was controversial from the moment it was announced — angry nearby residents came out on several occasions and exchanged heated comments with Rice, letting him know in no uncertain that they didn’t want a homeless encampment in their neighborhood.
“This spot of land is bounded by I-44 on one side and an eight-foot-high fence on the other,” Rice pointed out. “And actually the neighbors who were raising contentions were on the leased ground protesting.”
But none of them were taken into custody, he added.
Rice pledged to keep hope alive for “Integrity Village” at that proposed site.
“What we try to do is to continue to help the homeless in every way that we can,” he said. “If that involves bringing to light some of these very basic issues that (city leaders) would like to shove under the carpet after they’ve destroyed the camps…we believe the public has the right to know the truth.”