Homeless people’s belongings have been whisked off the streets in Windsor ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding Saturday — but police officials claim the move is strictly “voluntary,” according to reports.
Videos have surfaced of police clearing sleeping bags, books and other items belonging to the bums, known as “rough sleepers,” around Windsor Castle, according to Metro in the UK.
“It’s all voluntary,” Melanie Adams, a spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police, insisted to CNN. “Homeless people are not being targeted.”
Police said the items will be safely stored over the weekend and returned Monday and that the homeless are being offered a place to stay in the meantime.
Adams said the initiative was designed to keep the homeless from having their belongings searched — or confiscated.
“Anyone with large items that are deemed to be a security risk are likely to have those items removed,” she said.
The Thames Valley Police said in a statement: “The royal wedding is a national celebration and everyone is welcome, however everyone in Windsor on the day of the wedding will be subject to a search and screening.
“Anyone with large items that are deemed to be a security risk are likely to have those items removed.”
Murphy James of the Windsor Homeless Project, said the cleanup plan was well known ahead of time.
He reiterated, “there is no suggestion of people forcibly being taken off the streets.”
But Stuart, a rough sleeper in Windsor, didn’t buy authorities’ explanation.
“They can do what they want,” he told CNN. “It doesn’t matter about what people want, they will do what’s best to look after the royal family at the end of the day.”
The population of rough sleepers in Windsor, an affluent town located 22 miles west of London, has been growing.
In January, local council leader Simon Dudley asked police to take action against “aggressive begging and intimidation” and a build-up of “bags and detritus” ahead of the royal wedding.
“The whole situation also presents a beautiful town in a sadly unfavorable light,” he wrote in a letter. “Homelessness is completely unacceptable in a caring, compassionate community such as ours.”
Dudley’s letter drew accusations that he was calling for the removal of bums for aesthetic — rather than humanitarian — reasons.
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