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Human Rights Commission Opposes Sit/Lie 4.0
The Human Rights Commission (HRC), a project of the Office of Human Relations, is in the portfolio of Commissioner Amanda Fritz. On October 6, fifteen HRC commissioners sent a letter to Fritz indicating that their original opposition to the ordinance on human rights grounds had not changed. "We remain concerned that the City has passed and begun to enforce an ordinance that infringes upon the universal right to be free from discrimination, and the right to rest and leisure (Articles 2 and 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)." They cited data in which the impact of enforcement falls disproportionately upon homeless individuals, specifically young men, and that the summer data indicated 14% of the citations were issued to African Americans in a city that is at best 7% black. In a clear indication as to how various people with disabilities are affected by the ordinance, the HRC commissioners stated, "While the ordinance exempts people with disabilities from enforcement, the police acknowledge that the only way this exemption can be applied is when a person is clearly incapacitated--totally unable to understand police requests. Enforcement data does not acknowledge the 'invisible' nature of severe depression, malnutrition, sleep deprivation or other physical and mental problems resulting from inadequate health care and hopelessness."
Portland Copwatch (PCW) continues to send a representative to observe the monthly meetings of the Sidewalk Management Plan Advisory Group. In September, at the next meeting after Commissioner Fritz declined to include comments from PCW in the Group's minutes (PPR #51), she refused to allow our representative to speak. Fritz referred to our not accepting membership on the committee as showing we are not "committed to respectful discussion." She did indicate, after objection, that we could speak at the end of the meeting during "public comment." However, there has never been an item on the agenda for public comment. After some other members of the committee raised objections and the regular facilitator returned in October, the issue was dropped and PCW continued as before to speak during the regular meetings.
At the October and November meetings, statistics were provided about contacts made by police with those alleged to be violating the ordinance. There were 52 contacts including 43 verbal warnings, four written warnings and one citation. Belying the myth that only young people impede pedestrian traffic, 40% of the October contacts were age 30 or older. Several concerns stand out in these statistics. Thirty-nine contacts were made by officers of the mounted patrol. PCW has stated repeatedly how intimidating it is to be sitting on the sidewalk and be approached by an officer, armed with a gun and sitting atop a huge horse. Only six contacts were made by bike patrol officers, which is a bit more humane. Significantly, three contacts resulted in "unrelated arrests" for warrants and an open container. At the November meeting, the captain of Central Precinct who presented the statistics was asked, "but for this ordinance, would these arrests have been made?" Neither he nor a sergeant who was present could adequately speak to this concern, begging the question, is the ordinance being misused as a pretext tool?
At the November meeting, a contingent of Pearl District residents came to request that their whole district be included in the ordinance's boundaries, and that the effective time be extended from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM. One concern was expressed that individuals would be "sitting or standing when the Gerding [Theater] is getting out." There was no irony expressed how well dressed people crowd the same sidewalks for extended periods of time hanging around talking about the play.
Meanwhile, the City's camping ordinance will proceed at some future time to a trial in Federal Court. While this is pending, the police are still harassing those who camp out and have no other place to sleep.
A big problem for homeless people has been stowing their belongings during the day. Recently, the Portland Housing Bureau budgeted money for a storage facility at the Grove Hotel. However, the entrance was moved due to concerns by Portland's Chinese Consolidated "Benevolent" Association. "Some community members are really upset that the homeless storage center was right next to the Chinatown gate because it would give others the image of being scared of going into Chinatown, and it would hurt the business there," said the editor of the Portland Chinese Times (Oregonian, November 23).
Perpetuating the perceptions and myths surrounding homelessness, a Multnomah County Traffic Court judge recently told his captive courtroom audience that when he tries to hand homeless people information about where to obtain a free meal, they swear and spit at him. He topped that off with this judicial wisdom: "no one in Portland goes hungry unless they want to."
Cop who shot Aaron Campbell fired
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.