Over 1,000 protesters are expected to arrive in the city of Windsor on the eve of the UK royal wedding to take part in a rally aimed at raising awareness of homelessness in Britain.
Those taking part in the ‘Royal Sleepover’ will lie in the streets with sleeping bags as tens of thousands of visitors from Britain and abroad prepare to celebrate Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle.
Recent reports of police removing belongings from homeless people near Windsor Castle, where the ceremony will be held, have sparked criticism, with many on social media calling the approach “shameful.”
Police Superintendent Jim Weems claimed the storage of belongings was “entirely voluntary” and designed “to ensure the safety of the homeless community.”
The Windsor homeless population controversy made national headlines in January when Windsor city council leader Simon Dudley warned beggars and homeless could paint the town in a “sadly unfavorable light.”
Dudley said the town suffered from “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy” and wrote in a letter that “bags and detritus” from local homeless people created a “hostile atmosphere” for residents and tourists.
His comments earned him widespread criticism from the public and politicians, including British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Protest organizer Chris Boyd said he was motivated to arrange the event after comments made by Dudley.
He said the town suffered from “an epidemic of rough sleeping and vagrancy” and and wrote in a letter that “bags and detritus” from local homeless people created a “hostile atmosphere” for residents and tourists
Boyd said he felt compelled to act because of his “disgust” Britain had “reached a point where such views can be shared so openly”.
“The idea that we could, or would want to, sweep the homeless under the carpet for a lavish Royal Wedding is, for me, utterly appalling,” he added.
The Windsor homeless crisis comes amid a rapid rise in homelessness in Britain. The number of people living on the streets has increased by 134 percent since the Conservative Party came to power in 2010, according to the National Audit Office.
The royal marriage will be held on Saturday May 19 at Windsor Castle, the favored residence of Queen Elizabeth II located about 32 kilometers (20 miles) west of London.
The wedding is expected to draw thousands of extra visitors to the picturesque riverside town that is already popular with international tourists.