Copwatch - a project of Peace and Justice Works


Site Navigation

About us
People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Cool links
Other Information
Contact info


Sit/Lie Report: Sign Boards Okay, Homeless Not

The infamous Sit/Lie (sidewalk obstruction) Ordinance continues to create controversy as it is applied to the homeless, but not to sidewalk cafes or sign boards ("A boards"), which are covered by the Ordinance. While no warnings or citations have been issued against sidewalk cafes or un- permitted "A boards," 133 of the 170 warnings and citations issued up to November were to reportedly homeless individuals (Portland Mercury , November 20). This inequitably applied enforcement concerns advocates of the poor and homeless. Complaints are frequently heard from businesses about homeless people on the sidewalks, but no business has raised concern about how cafe seating and "A boards" impede the progress of pedestrians through Portland's streets.

These statistics came from a "Street Access for Everyone" (SAFE) Committee report issued at the end of November. Ever since the acronym for this oversight committee was established, concern has been raised that it creates fear of people who are downtown for any purpose other than shopping and spending money. We hope that when the ordinance sunsets in May, the section that enables the Sit/Lie law will be allowed to expire, though not the parts calling for more services. In any event, perhaps a more appropriate name might be established for the committee when it heads back to Council.

Sit/Lie was found "constitutional" on September 19 by Multnomah Circuit Court Judge Terry Hannon. Though not applicable in other courtrooms, the decision creates a more challenging situation for homeless advocates who are calling for the repeal of the law. Attorney William Meyer plans to appeal the decision (Street Roots, September 20).

Concerns have been raised about an increasing number of people congregating in front of Sisters of the Road, whose representative withdrew from the SAFE committee in May (PPR #45). Commander Mike Reese of the Police Bureau's Central Precinct says despite police being called a number of times to the area, no one has been cited for violating the Sit/Lie Ordinance. While there have been fights and other unfortunate activities around the Sisters area, no sidewalk obstruction complaints have come from Sisters. Director Monica Beemer has indicated it is important to find a solution that does not dehumanize people (Portland Tribune, October 2). People have also observed that police on horseback have been used to force Sisters customers back from across the street, near the unfinished new light rail line, and officers have encouraged people to sit by Sisters, perhaps to force the Cafe to change its view on the Ordinance.

A new public toilet, referred to as The Portland Loo in a tip of the hat to the British, opened in early December near NW Fifth and Glisan and should be a step in the right direction in providing resources for those affected by the Sit/Lie Ordinance. Commissioner Randy Leonard is so excited about the Loo that he is considering ordering more (Oregonian, November 15). Despite these small steps forward, we still believe it is not appropriate to exchange civil rights for services.

Anti-Camping Update:

Portland Police changed their protocols on sweeping homeless camps, no longer feeling compelled by state law to give 24-hour notice to any "illegal campground" found on public property before clearing it out (Street Roots, November 28)

The Oregon Law Center, representing four local homeless individuals, has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the City of Portland's Anti-Camping Ordinance (Portland Tribune, December 11).

Back to top.

  People's Police Report

January, 2009
Also in PPR #46

Railroad Police Shoot Near Portland Cops
  • Cops Bragged About "Tackling" James Chasse
  • Shootings and Deaths In and Around Oregon

Lawsuit Changes Policy on Taping Police
Oversight Report Skewed for Public Relations
Review Board Holds Only 1 Hearing in 2009
Updates PPR 46
  • Racial Profiling Committee Dismissed
  • Cops Create Rules for "Secret List"
Sheriff Skipper Talks to Copwatch
  • Sheriff Jail Deaths, Sick Leave in Headlines
Sit/Lie Report: Sign Boards OK, Not People
  • Anti-Camping Update
Portland to Revive Prostitution Free Zones?
Chief Sizer Remains Bureau Head--For Now
Taser Danger: Portland Cases in the News
Family Settles Suit: Excessive Force in Raid
Rapping Back #46

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

People's Police Report #46 Table of Contents
Back to Portland Copwatch home page
Peace and Justice Works home page
Back to top