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It's been about three months since Sacramento shutdown a large tent city of homeless people. Many of the people who were forced to leave say they're like refugees with no place to go. Yesterday, they staged a loud demonstration. They hoped to pressure Sacramento officials to find them a new place to camp.

NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES: Ever since the tent city closed, 45-year-old Philip Grice has been on the move. He's a carpenter by trade. Long hair, tobacco-stained teeth, he wears a T-shirt that reads: Where am I supposed to live?

Mr. PHILIP GRICE: And when we moved out, we moved over to a private area two fields over. They wanted us off of there too. Just like shuffling cattle, that's all it is. We're supposed to be the eyesore, but actually, we're citizens and we're human beings. We're supposed to have rights like everybody else. It don't matter what we got in our pockets.

GONZALES: Grice joined about 250 other homeless people and their supporters for a march through the northern end of Sacramento.

(Soundbite of protest)

Unidentified Man: When do we want it?

Unidentified People: Now.

Unidentified Man: What do we want?

Unidentified People: (unintelligible)

Unidentified Man: When do we want it?

Unidentified People: Now.

GONZALES: Their action coincided with the closure this week of a temporary shelter where many of the tent-city residents had found a roof for the winter. Now they say they need a year-round legal camp on what they call safe ground.

(Soundbite of protest)

Unidentified Man: Safe ground.

Unidentified People: Safe ground, safe ground, safe ground, safe ground.

GONZALES: One marcher is a 43-year-old single father and disabled brick mason, Rodney Frazier.

Mr. RODNEY FRAZIER: A lot of these people who's out here are brick masons, they're tile setters, they're dentists. They had some very nice jobs. They contribute to the world, to society and they had a downfall in life. They need help getting up.

GONZALES: The march ended up in a hot, dusty, city-owned lot next to a police station, where organizers set up a symbolic occupation.

Mr. VAL JON FARRIS (Founder, iCare America): Somebody else want to jump in here with the other side? Those cross pole here. All right. All right, all right, brother, okay.

GONZALES: Val Jon Farris, founder of a group called iCare America, immediately set up a tent. He's a fit man with a bandana covered with the stars and stripes.

Mr. FARRIS: What's important is that there's no legal place for people to live unless they own, rent or are leasing a home. So if you're homeless, it's illegal to exist. You can't even lay your head anywhere without getting arrested or prosecuted or criminalized. So this is a demonstration in order to create a civil liberty that ought to already exist, which is that people have the right to be, to live without the threat of being incarcerated in their own country.

GONZALES: Sacramento police officer Mark Zoulas says a legal campground makes sense to him. He's been on the homeless beat for the past decade.

Mr. MARK ZOULAS (Police Officer, Sacramento, California): So you need something for that immediate need. I liked the winter shelter. I'm not saying that's the best answer in the world necessarily, but at least it gives you a choice, and that's now closed. So everyone using it is now out, and that leaves, for the minute, nothing, and nothing is never the answer.

GONZALES: The idea of a safe ground for homeless campers divides officials in city hall. The mayor, Kevin Johnson, has been receptive, but others, including the city manager, Ray Kerridge, is not. There's also a disagreement over how much it will cost at a time when the city and county are already slashing basic services. What's not at dispute is the fact that this week, Sacramento has 200 more people with no place to sleep. Richard Gonzales, NPR News, Sacramento.

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