NOTES BY NORSE: Santa Cruz’s abusive and overreaching ordinance criminalizing peaceful sparechanging in most places at most times downtown has little to do with real abusive behavior and everything to do with giving the police “tools” to “move along” or (if they resist) punish those who insist on their rights. Day before yesterday I witnessed an officer giving a $300 panhandling citation to a homeless man who had gotten 49c from a friend of mine sitting at the Del Mar Cafe. The officer didn’t even bother to ask if my friend was disturbed or inconvenienced by the mild solicitation–which he wasn’t, but simply wrote up the ticket in robotic fashion. My friend apologized to the guy afterwards when he learned that his act of charity had resulted in punishment, but the officer was gone. I made a few loud comments about harassing the poor as the cop concluded writing her ticket, and a few other homeless folks gathered round–which seems to me an appropriate and immediate way of addressing this kind of commercial fascism downtown.
Our local ACLU has reportedly been cleansed of the participation of former Mayor Mike Rotkin–whose presence there has been a roadblock to homeless civil rights activity. The Pleich-led ACLU has recently called for its parent organization–the Northern California local–to sue Santa Cruz for the cruel and unusual punishment of its 11 PM – 8:30 AM Sleeping Ban, and its camping ordinance generally–given the absence of even the pittance of shelter with the Paul Lee Loft closing in June. Boss Jannan Thomas of the Homeless (Lack of ) Services Center has also decided to leave her job after spending a year with the new prison-like atmosphere of the place with bathrooms, laundry, shower, and meals closed to the general homeless population.
Freedom Sleepers continue to assemble at City Hall every Tuesday night in what has become a de facto “Safe Sleeping Zone” on the sidewalk.
Denver police ordered to stop enforcing city’s panhandling ban
An American Civil Liberties Union victory in Grand Junction prompted Denver police to make this enforcement
The Denver Post
After a federal court ruling in a Grand Junction case, Denver police officers have been instructed by the chief of police not to charge citizens for violating the city’s panhandling ban.
The Wednesday court ruling came down after the American Civil Liberties Union fought Grand Junction for about a year and a half on its enforcement of a panhandling ban that ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein said was a violation of the First Amendment.
“This Court believes that panhandling carries a message,” said Judge Christine Arguello of the Grand Junction court decision. “Often, a request for money conveys conditions of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment, as well as a lack of access to medical care, reentry services for persons convicted of crimes, and mental health support for veterans. The City’s attempt to regulate this message is an attempt to restrain the expression of conditions of poverty to other citizens.”
The permanent injunction in Grand Junction prompted Police Chief Robert White to send a bulletin to officers notifying them that “effectively immediately,” officers may not charge people for panhandling.
“Denver did a commendable thing taking prompt action to suspend enforcement of a panhandling ordinance that violates the First Amendment rights of a people who ask for charity in public places,” Silverstein said.
Days earlier, the Colorado Springs Police Department ordered police to stop issuing panhandling citations “on or near streets or highways” after the ACLU accused the city of illegally enforcing panhandling ordinances.
The police department also stated that “passive solicitation is lawful everywhere in the city.”
On Friday, Sgt. Nick Smetzer with the Boulder Police Department said he didn’t think the Grand Junction ruling and resulting Denver police response would affect the way Boulder officers handle panhandling.
He said officers didn’t have an issue with people asking for charity “as long as they’re not bothering anybody doing it.”
Silverstein believes that this ruling will cause ripple effects throughout the state.
“I believe that all or almost all of the panhandling ordinances in Colorado will need to be reviewed and many will need to be repealed or dramatically amended,” Silverstein said. “Denver is commendable for getting out in front of that.”
There are still conditions in which officers could charge someone for panhandling including things like using violent or threatening gestures, touching others, blocking a vehicle or pedestrian and soliciting from someone in a vehicle, according to the bulletin given to Denver officers.
The order from White is a suspension, meaning that city council is considering formal amendments to the ordinance to “bring the law into compliance with recent court rulings,” the document said.
Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-954-1223, email@example.com or twitter.com/ehernandez
Judge rules Grand Junction panhandling law unconstitutional
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — A panhandling ordinance in Grand Junction has been ruled unconstitutional, with a federal judge saying it’s not OK to stop people from asking for money after dark.
The decision Thursday from U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello means that Grand Junction will be barred from enforcing its 2014 ordinance limiting panhandling.
The judge ruled that Grand Junction’s panhandling ordinance was too broad and curbed constitutionally protected speech. She wrote that Grand Junction was using a sledgehammer to solve a problem that could be solved with a scalpel.
The city argued the ordinance limited aggressive panhandling, not passive panhandling. Among other things, the ordinance banned asking for money at night.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Grand Junction last year. Grand Junction never enforced the ordinance, pending a legal decision.
City dismisses panhandling citations after ACLU complaint
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Colorado Springs is considering changes to its panhandling ordinances after a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union led to citation dismissals.
The Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1Vn6cRK) City attorney Wynetta Massey said in a letter to the civil rights group that some actions have been dismissed as officials continue reviewing cases, and changes to the ordinances will be presented to city councilmembers.
Colorado Springs exempts passive solicitation in its ordinances, which prohibit individuals from approaching people in public to ask for money or other items of value.
The ACLU said enforcement has targeted impoverished individuals who are passively soliciting.
ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein says the police and city attorney have acknowledged citing, prosecuting and convicting innocent people.
A City Attorney’s Office spokeswoman said Massey declined to comment.
Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com