Protesting laws that make sleeping in public illegal, homeless protesters are camping out in front of City Hall, as the Sacramento News & Review reports.
Recent rulings from the Department of Justice have supported their efforts and largely neutered the County’s work to eliminate illegal camping from the Parkway.
A flatbed truck backed onto a City Hall sidewalk, then dumped off a large port-a-potty. So it began: protesters’ indefinite occupation of 915 I Street.
The portable toilet grabbed most of the attention. But this action, which started on Tuesday, December 8, just before the evening’s council meeting, was about more than bathroom breaks. It was about protesting the city’s homelessness policies.
That night, protester James “Faygo” Clark spoke to a crowd waiting in line for the weekly Community Dinner Project meal about the laws he says discriminate against homeless people. Then, he asked people to join him and occupy or “camp out” at City Hall until the laws were overturned.
Activist say they deserve a right to rest without police harassment, in addition to access to clean drinking water and public restrooms. They also say the Department of Justice is on their side, and cite a recent ruling that said “anti-camping laws” are unconstitutional.
“The anti-camping ordinance criminalizes individuals who have no place else to go,” Clark, who is also homeless, told SN&R last week. “If you lay down and go to sleep [outside], that’s illegal. If you have a sleeping bag to keep warm, that’s illegal.”
By day six of the occupation, foldout tables topped with loaves of bread and protesters in chairs overtook a small strip of dead lawn along Ninth Street. Activists chatted and smoked, wrapped tightly in blankets and coats to keep the morning freeze at bay. Food donations arrived regularly, they said, and a pile of more blankets and sleeping bags beneath a tree had grown to more than 3 feet tall.
The occupation clearly was settled in for the long haul. But the game plan had evolved, according to protester Steve Handlin.
“We’re not going to escalate things or get in the police’s face,” he explained. “We’re just offering services that the city does not.”
Handlin, a 38-year-old computer engineer who isn’t homeless but is occupying in solidarity, said the protest had become more about helping others than pitching tents at City Hall and making a scene….
In 2014, city police issued 1,030 citations for illegal camping.
Clark and others say that’s unacceptable—and they won’t be leaving City Hall grounds until it stops. “We need to make sure our voices get heard,” he said.