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JPR reporter arrested by Medford Police as Hawthorne Park camp comes down

After serving a 24-hour notice on Monday, officers from Medford Police closed Hawthorne Park and began clearing the area on Tuesday morning.

Posted: Sep 22, 2020 11:47 AM
Updated: Sep 22, 2020 5:58 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — The clearing of Hawthorne Park began on Tuesday morning, as Medford Police followed up on a 24-hour notice that campers would need to leave.

At 8 a.m., officers and clean-up crews from Medford Parks arrived to close down the park and clear out those who remained.

"Pursuant to Medford Charter Section 18(3)(e), the City Manager has ordered the closure of Hawthorne Park for at least 48 hours to allow for sanitation, cleaning, and inspection of City property," MPD said in a post, referring back to the 24-hour notice posted on Monday.

The agency said that by 11:15 a.m., officers had arrested 11 people for "various reasons," including trespassing or outstanding warrants.

Among those arrested was 32-year-old April Fonseca, a reporter who works for Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) under the name April Ehrlich. The radio station confirmed her arrest on Tuesday, saying that she'd been on the scene since early in the morning to cover Medford Police's anticipated clearing of the camp.

While Fonseca appeared on the Jackson County Jail log as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, no charges had yet been added. JPR reported that she is accused of "interfering with a peace officer, 2nd degree trespassing, and resisting arrest."

Lt. Mike Budreau with Medford Police told NewsWatch 12 that the park was closed to the public at 8 a.m. when officers arrived to begin the sweep. By that point, people were not allowed to enter Hawthorne Park "unless they were removing their belongings."

An officer approached Fonseca in the parking lot and told her to go to a media staging area at the park entrance on Main Street, Budreau said.

"After April declined to go the media staging area, she proceeded to enter the park against numerous officer’s orders and was placed under arrest for violating the closure of the park," Budreau continued. "Please note, members of the media have had full access to the park up until the public closure and the media staging location was well within view of the officers’ interactions with campers."

Budreau did not answer whether the charges against Fonseca will be forwarded to the District Attorney's office for prosecution.

Medford Police said after serving its 24-hour notice on Monday that its Livability Team had worked with Rogue Retreat to set up 34 people with shelter services, while two more were taken to the Almeda Fire evacuee shelter at the Expo. Three dozen others camping at the park refused services, according to the agency.

Rogue Retreat was once again present on Tuesday to connect with people who decided to seek shelter or other resources, Medford Police said. The agency did not indicate if anyone else was connected with those services.

"We did not encounter anyone who lost their house due to the Almeda Drive Fire during this morning’s efforts," MPD said.

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