Thursday, February 26, 2015

Community Members Take A Seat on Monterey Sidewalk to Protest New Sit-Lie Ban

In October a new law went into effect in the City of Monterey making it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks in commercial districts. In response, activists staged a sit-in on the sidewalk along Alvarado Street in Downtown Monterey on February 13, and they say they plan to make it a regular event. Individuals with Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) organized the demonstration because they believe the law targets individuals without homes, travelers, and the impoverished.

"No person shall sit or lie on a commercial sidewalk or on any object brought or affixed to said sidewalk, from 7:00am until 9:00pm," the new ordinance (Sec. 32-6.2) states.

At the demonstration, community members sat on the sidewalk and held protest signs with messages such as "Don't Criminalize Poverty," "Homelessness Is Not A Crime," and "I'll Sit Where I Want!"

Many people walking by asked what they were protesting. One person sat down immediately with the group on the sidewalk when told their action was in opposition to the new sit-lie law.

A social worker passing by with her children was astounded to find out it was now illegal for people to sit down on the sidewalk. She told demonstrators, "That's terrible! If they are not doing anything, they should just let them!"

One older resident said the demonstration reminded him that "everything is negative here." He linked the new sit-lie law to how climbing on the train at nearby Dennis the Menace Park, which was a favorite pastime of his childhood, was no longer allowed.

Two people walked by and asked each other what the group was doing, and when they read the signs, one of them said to the other, "I'm guessing they are clearing out all the hobos."

"It must be about the hobos," the person repeated.

The demonstration also drew quite a bit of attention from the Monterey Police Department. Five different officers were monitoring the protest less than a block away on foot, and two patrol vehicles drove by. One officer photographed the demonstrators. Additionally, two security guards employed by Uretsky Security were on patrol and in the area the whole time.

Alvarado Street in Monterey.

Four of the Monterey police officers monitoring the demonstration.

Full text of sit-lie law from the Monterey municipal code

Sec. 32-6.2 Prohibiting sitting and lying on commercial sidewalks at certain times -- Exceptions.

(a) Sitting on Commercial Sidewalks at Certain Times Prohibited. No person shall sit or lie on a commercial sidewalk or on any object brought or affixed to said sidewalk, from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., except as provided in this section.

(b) Exceptions. The prohibition in subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to any person sitting or lying on a commercial sidewalk:

1. Due to a medical emergency;

2. On a wheelchair or other device that is needed for mobility;

3. On a public bench or bus stop bench that is permanently affixed to the sidewalk;

4. Operating or patronizing a commercial establishment conducted on the public sidewalk pursuant to an encroachment permit;

5. Participating in or attending a parade, festival, performance, rally, demonstration, meeting or similar event conducted on pursuant to and in compliance with an event permit or other applicable permit. This section shall not be construed to prohibit persons from obtaining such City permits; or

6. Who is a child seated in a stroller.

These exceptions shall not be construed to allow conduct that is prohibited by other laws.

(c) This section shall not be applied or enforced in a manner that violates the United States or California constitutions.

(d) Necessity of Warning Prior to Citation. No person may be cited for a violation of this section until a peace officer first warns said person that his or her conduct is unlawful and said person is given a change to stop said conduct. One warning by a peace officer to a person who is violating this section is sufficient for a thirty (30) day period as to any subsequent violations of this section by said person during said period.

(e) Commercial Sidewalk -- Definition. As used in this section, “commercial sidewalk” means all sidewalks in front of property designated on the City’s General Plan map for mixed use areas, as shown in Appendix A to the ordinance codified in this chapter.

(f) Penalty. An administrative citation may be issued to any person who violates this section, or a violation may be charged as an infraction. (Ord. 3503 § 2, 2014)

No comments: