SACRAMENTO, CA – Tuesday – three days before Christmas – was Day 15 of the homeless occupation of city hall in Sacramento. About two dozen homeless advocates have endured rain, and sub-freezing temperatures over the first two weeks of their 24-hr encampment. The occupiers want Sacramento City Council to do more than throw money at homeless studies.
There have been no arrests since the occupation began December 8, although campers are breaking a city ordinance making the encampment illegal. Volunteer lawyers have said they will challenge the constitutionality of that ordinance if anyone is arrested under it.
The only “arrest” was the second day of the occupation, December 9, when SPD “arrested” a homeless portable restroom, and towed away a truck holding cold weather gear for the homeless protest.
The occupation started December 8 when about a dozen advocates wrapped themselves in blankets and other “camping paraphernalia” that violates Sacramento City’s camping laws, which target the homeless. They want the City to repeal the unlawful ordinance. Sacramento Police refused to arrest them for “camping” because of all of the news media and supporters present.
The Community Dinner Project (CDP), concerned citizens who risk arrest every week by feeding 75-150 hungry people – also illegal under city ordinance that requires a $300 permit to feed the hungry – claim the city’s camping ordinance has been declared unconstitutional by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The Dept of Justice has issued a statement of interest in a federal case in Boise, in which seven people sued the city over their conviction for the “crime” of camping. The DOJ in August of 2015 said bans on sleeping in public are unconstitutional.
“Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity- i.e., it must occur at some time in some place,” argued the DOJ in the still pending case. “If a person literally has nowhere to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless.” Such laws, the DOJ argues, violate 8th Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment, and thus, unconstitutional.
A federal task force on homelessness concluded that homeless sweeps are not the solution.
“We strongly advise against communities dispersing people experiencing unsheltered homelessness on their own or in camps,” said Matthew Doherty, task force executive director. “It disrupts the ability to engage and develop trusting relationships to help them on paths to permanent housing.” (LA Times, 9/6/15)
“After a year of talking to the city about this ordinance, the city still shows no sign of listening to us about the unconstitutionality of the ordinance,” said community organizers, adding “Let’s end this assault on our fellow human beings; let us be a model city and demonstrate caring and compassion, and social justice for all and find more sustainable solutions for homeless people.”
Watch the VIDEO of Sacramento police arresting a portable toilet: