Archive for August, 2009

CHALLENGE TO PORTLAND’S [HOMELESS] CAMPING BAN MOVES FORWARD

Posted: August 20, 2009 in Uncategorized
Homeless Encampment in Oregon called "Dignity Village"

Homeless Encampment in Oregon called "Dignity Village"

 by James Mayer, The Oregonian  Tuesday August 04, 2009, 5:19 PM

A federal judge has dismissed some claims in a lawsuit challenging Portland’s anti-camping ordinance, but allowed others to continue. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken means the case stays alive. Aiken, in ruling on the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, rejected claims that the ordinance violated the plaintiffs’ right to travel, but allowed the claim that the ordinance violated their constitutional right against cruel or unusual punishment.

The suit seeks suspension of the city’s anti-camping ordinance that prohibits camping on any public property or right-of-way and an ordinance that prohibits setting up any kind of structure on public property without a permit. The class-action suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland by the Oregon Law Center, a nonprofit legal aid organization, on behalf of four homeless Portlanders and “all others similarly situated.”

The suit alleges that police officers have arbitrarily moved homeless people from place to place, excluded them from parks and cited them for camping and trespassing, even though they can’t obtain housing or adequate shelter in Portland. They also have been cited by police for gathering their belongings under tarps and in bike trailers.

 “Punishing homeless people for sleeping outside is placing the burden of the lack of sufficient housing squarely on the shoulders of those who can do the least to remedy this problem,” the suit says.

The city argues that the ordinances are aimed at conduct and not the status of being homeless, but the judge ruled that the plaintiffs could present evidence that the city has criminalized being homeless, citing a U.S Supreme Court decision that threw out a Los Angeles ordinance that made it a crime to be a drug addict.

The judge also allowed the plaintiffs to present evidence that the city violated their right to equal protection of the law in singling out homeless people. The judge rejected a claim that the ordinance violated the plaintiffs’ right to travel to and around Portland, noting that the city has no policy or program of excluding homeless people from certain areas.

James Mayer:  jimmayer@news.oregonian.com

PRESS RELEASE  ~  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Date: 8/03/09

Vivianne Robinson, "NameOnRice" artist protests at lottery Venice Beach Boardwalk Coalition (VBBC) challenges City of Los Angeles Permit/Lottery on Venice Boardwalk

On June 24, 2009, Seattle Center’s permit regulations, imposed on street performers, were overturned in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by an 11 member “en banc” panel of judges, including Judge Harry Pregerson, father of Judge Dean Pregerson, who, the City of Los Angeles claims, presided over the creation of the current LAMC 42.15 ordinance that regulates the Free Speech Zone (FSZ) on the west side of Venice Boardwalk.

 Seattle’s law, requiring a permit to engage in [individual] speech: “constitutes a dramatic departure from our national heritage and constitutional tradition,” according to Judge Marsha Berzon, writing for the majority opinion. Additionally, the City of Seattle required free expressionists (artists, performers, politico’s, etc) to wear badges, refrain from soliciting gratuities, stay away from captive audience and work only in designated sites. Similarly, in the Venice Boardwalk FSZ, the City of Los Angeles requires free expressionists to purchase a permit and enter a lottery; just to have a chance to win an opportunity to exercise their First Amendment Free Speech rights, in city specified “designated spaces” in the FSZ, in accordance with city rules, including wearing badges.

VBBC free expressionists are demanding that the City of Los Angeles rescind the unconstitutional permit/ lottery and remove all “unprotected” retail commercial vending operating under the current LAMC 42.15.  As Judge Marsha Berzon writes: “It is our belief that the protections afforded by the First Amendment are nowhere stronger than in streets & parks, both categorized for First Amendment purposes as traditional public fora. In such fora, the government’s right to limit expressive activity is sharply circumscribed. Among traditional public fora, parks [such as Venice Beach], are especially important locales for communication among the citizenry, as they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of public, and have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions.”  Furthermore, VBBC claims that these important protections should not be subverted to allow the “unprotected” retail commercial vending that currently proliferates in the FSZ, driving out expressionists such as artists, activists, performers, politicos and others with a real “protected” message.

For more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with Venice Beach Boardwalk Coalition spokesperson, Lisa Green and other free expressionists, please call 310 391-7686 or email at lisaaverde@yahoo.com. If you publish or use this information please inform us so we can monitor, and send you additional pertinent information to your community.

Contact: Lisa Green   ~  Cell: 310/391-7686  Email

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