portland independent media center  
images audio video
promoted newswire article reporting portland metro

economic justice | human & civil rights | police / legal

City Turns Up Heat on Homeless, Poor, Free Speech with Aggressive Revision of Sit-Lie Law

Portland city officials annd police will unleash an aggressive new enforcement regime for the city's 'Obstructions as Nuisances' law, commonly known as the "Sit-Lie Ordinance". In an August 11 email to Marc Jolin of the Oregon Law Center, Deputy City Attorney David Woboril wrote that 'Mayor Katz has asked me to make available to you revised sidewalk obstruction guidelines which will become effective this week.' Woboril also delivered a draft copy of the revised guidelines, hatched in the corridors of city power without input from the public.
Portland city officials and police will unleash an aggressive new enforcement regime for the city's 'Obstructions as Nuisances' law, commonly known as the 'Sit-Lie Ordinance'. In an August 11 email to Marc Jolin of the Oregon Law Center, Deputy City Attorney David Woboril wrote that 'Mayor Katz has asked me to make available to you revised sidewalk obstruction guidelines which will become effective this week.' Woboril also delivered a draft copy of the revised guidelines, hatched in the corridors of city power without input from the public.

'These new guidelines are more narrow than the guidelines released last summer,' Woboril's email continued, 'but allow broader enforcement than has been occurring since last September. The guidelines released last summer have been limited to violations occurring in the pedestrian through zone. These guidelines allow enforcement of Portland City Code 14A.50.030 on all parts of the sidewalks, and allow limited enforcement during expressive events.'

Under the guidelines released by the Mayor in September 2002, an exception to the ordinance was allowed for persons participating or observing an 'event'. Members of the Portland Peace Encampment, a 24-hour per day vigil that has occupied sidewalk space across 4th Avenue from City Hall since the American war on Iraq turned up on March 20, have repeatedly claimed an exemption from the law because their vigil is an ongoing event. In a tacit acknowledgement of the effectiveness of the Peace Encampment's argument, the revised rule states that police 'shall not enforce PCC 14A.50.030 against a person standing in a through pedestrian zone as part of a crowd that has formed to participate in or observe an expressive event UNLESS THE EVENT HAS LASTED MORE THAN EIGHT HOURS.'

'It is obscene that the public officials of Portland are putting time constraints on our first amendment rights to freely speak and peacefully assemble in response to our 24-hour vigil for our brothers and sisters who are suffering needlessly due to this heinous war of terror,' said Todd Kurylowicz, a longtime camp member, when he learned of the addition of the 8-hour time limit for 'expressive events' under the revised rule. Kurylowicz and other Peace Encampment members vowed to continue the vigil despite the revision.

City Commissioner Randy Leonard visited the Encampment on Thursday, July 31 to warn the vigil that the city planned to 'escalate' tactics against the camp and against the homeless and poor of Portland with no place to go but the street. According to crossroads, an advocacy group for the homeless and poor of Portland, at least 1500 individuals are outdoors every night in Portland, while the city maintains only about 370 shelter beds. Members of crossroads met Tuesday morning to discuss their response to the new enforcement regime.

City Attorney Woboril's email stated that the rule will only be enforced in the downtown area bordered by the Willamette River and the freeways, and on commercial streets in Northwest Portland. Woboril also wrote that the ordinance will only be enforced by a limited number of Central Precinct police officers who have been specially trained to do so by the city.

only enforced downtown? 12.Aug.2003 17:21

mom

Sigh! What this means is that the homeless poor will be forced further into SE/NE neighborhoods and the area residents will once again begin a campaign against the poor. Wouldn't it be novel if citizens campaigned against the city ordinance rather than the people with no where to go? or better yet advocated along with the homeless poor for more public shelter/open spaces where the public can really gather?
This seems to be a never ending cycle: push 'em to the east/ push 'em to the west/ stand up, don't sit/ you can't rest!

Link to earlier article where Randy Leonard threatens escalation in tactics 12.Aug.2003 17:40

jayson

Here is the link to an earlier article from July 31 when Commissioner Randy Leonard told the Peace Encampment that the city would escalate tactics to remove the Peace Encampment and the homeless from sight of shoppers in downtown:

 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/07/269087.shtml

Should have mentioned [emphasis added] 12.Aug.2003 19:58

Jayson

I should have mentioned that the bold text that reads 'UNLESS THE EVENT HAS LASTED MORE THAN EIGHT HOURS' was not in Woboril's email. I added the emphasis to highlight the change.

Stomping on Constitutional Rights 13.Aug.2003 08:33

dan

This is an attack on free speech. The mayor made these changes in Title 14 specifically to end the Peace Encampment demonstration. She has the jaded attitude "go ahead and sue. Todd just called and is in the back of a police cruiser. The police sited him for failure to comply with the order of a policeman. The police waited 8hrs after midnight to sight the demondstrateors. They were blocked from walking onto the federal property (the grass).

does sit/lie ban apply in the NW 21st area? 13.Aug.2003 08:41

little bird

I never miss an opportunity to spread the word about where Vera lives. It might be interesting to organize a sit/lie in at NW 21st & Johnson. The businesses would hate it, but maybe they should have thought about that before they moved in next door to a cockroach like Vera. Maybe start a peace camp...or better yet a Human Rights Camp (sort of the opposite of Guantanamo Bay) right outside her place. See if they'll enforce the camping ban so it could be overturned. Vera would be forced to walk through camp every morning and evening and would quickly snap.

Camp at Vera's house sounds like a good idea! 13.Aug.2003 11:00

welcome home, b*tch

As the article above states: "City Attorney Woboril's email stated that the rule will only be enforced in the downtown area bordered by the Willamette River and the freeways, and on commercial streets in Northwest Portland."

I don't know where Vera lives, but if it is not a 'commercial street' this could be a damn good idea.

Of course, the moment this is posted, the Nazis in the PPB will start planning to prevent it. (nice use of city resources people!)

LEGAL PRECEDENT 15.Aug.2003 10:29

ANTHONY

I live in Seattle now, but about 7 years ago, I lived in Atlanta, GA and the city of Atlanta was trying to pass the same type of ordinance. The term they coined was, "UBAN CAMPING". I am quite sure you can go on the web and type in "URBAN CAMPING" and "ATLANTA" and find the legal precedent that struck down that citys' ordinance...It went all the way to the Georgia State Supreme Court and was overturned...