Crossroads/Sisters of the Road Café and street roots are inviting the community to protest at City Hall, Wednesday September 18th, at 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. We will be gathering at 10:30 at Terry Schrunk Plaza. We are demanding that the Mayor suspend enforcement of the "sit-lie" law and engage in a public dialogue that includes homeless men and women. Since the Mayor's announcement of these new enforcement guidelines, members of crossroads have presented there concerns directly to the City Council. Crossroads has also made multiple attempts to contact the Mayor's office, to set up a meeting with the Mayor to address this issue. At this time the mayor's office has not returned our calls. Our intention is to surround City Hall and sit on the sidewalk in non-violent protest to the City's increasing criminalization of the homeless and attacks on civil liberties. For more information, call crossroads at 503.228.2543 or street roots at 503.228.5657.
A Note on Civil Disobedience:
Under the new enforcement guidelines people attending an event are not actually subject to the obstructions as nuisances ordinance. However, Portland Indymedia has reported that police officers, yesterday, used the new enforcement guidelines to harass peaceful forest activists protesting outside of Senator Wyden's office.
The guidelines also allow for one to sit on the sidewalk as long as they do not propose a "tripping hazard" and there is 6 to 8 feet of passable space. We assume that a protest qualifies as an event. We also intend to sit along the sidewalk around City Hall in a manner that should be compliant with the new guidelines. The focus of this event is not intended to be civil disobedience.
Title 14 is the section of city code that governs the use of public space. Over the past several years, the City Attorney's office began a process of rewriting this section of the city code. This revision was intended only to clarify the language in this code and to bring it into compliance with state law. In January of this year, attorneys from the Oregon Law Center, the ACLU of Oregon, and the Metropolitan Public Defenders objected to 13 of the proposed revisions in Title 14, which they said would "enact numerous new criminal offenses and . . . vastly expand the offenses that already exist." In May, nine more of the revision were opposed by crossroads, a peoples organization.
The most famous of these new criminal offenses was the proposed "Sit/Lie" ordinance. As written, the "Sit/Lie" ordinance would have made it illegal for a person to stand, sit or lie on a public right of way if that conduct " 'would cause' a pedestrian or other user of 'any part' of the right of way reasonably to take action to move around or avoid" that person." The ordinance could be read to permit law enforcement officers to treat any sitting, lying or standing on a public right of way as criminal conduct.
Due to these legal objections and concerns raised by the community, the City Attorney's Office temporarily removed most of these controversial measures, including the "sit/lie" ordinance, from the Title 14 revisions passed last May. These measures will be given separate consideration by the City Council some time this fall.
Mayor Katz is now saying that she will not pursue the "sit/lie" measure but instead seems to be relying on the new enforcement guidelines for the "Obstructions as Nuisances" law to create a de facto "sit/lie" ordinance. These new guidelines allow the police to ticket people standing on the side walk if there is less than 6 to 8 feet of passable space. The passable space guidelines do not include what is called the furnishing zone on the side walk, which makes the law incredibly restrictive. Any two people standing and talking to each other on the sidewalk will likely be in violation of the new guidelines. It also allows people to be ticketed if they are sitting and posing a "trip hazard." Street roots reporter Jacose Belle states that the new enforcement guidelines have already gone into effect and that the police have begun handing tickets out to "offenders."