Sunday, January 3, 2016

Protesting Monterey's Sit-Lie Law

On December 4, Direct Action Monterey Network (DAMN) organized its eleventh sit-in protest in downtown Monterey. Since February, community members have been gathering monthly on the sidewalk of Alvarado Street to defy the city's sit-lie ordinance, which has been in effect for just over a year now. Sec. 32-6.2 of the Monterey municipal code bans sitting or lying on most commercial sidewalks in Monterey between the hours of 7am and 9pm. Based on their outreach with Monterey's homeless community, DAMN believes the sit-lie ordinance is discriminatory and has been selectively enforced by police.

There was quite a bit of support for the sitters at the December 4 protest. Several unsolicited donations were made by individuals passing by. After speaking with members of the group, one individual opened their wallet and gave the demonstrators a generous cash donation. Another person brought them packages of cookies.

The protests bring together a wide variety of community members from the Monterey Peninsula. Both housed and unhoused individuals participated in the sit-in.

The decision to participate in the protest was not taken lightly by some. To issue a citation under the sit-lie ordinance, police officers must first warn an individual they are violating the ordinance. Regardless, at least one homeless individual decided to participate in the by remaining upright while others sat.

"I can't risk it," the person said.

"I get camping tickets all the time."

For much of the demonstration, individuals decorated protest signs inscribed with messages such as "Homelessness is Not a Crime" and "I'll Sit Where I Want."

At one point in the evening a person walking by joined the group briefly to help decorate the posters. The individual described how she had been homeless in Colorado Springs several years prior, and that city had also been going through a phase of creating laws that targeted homeless people, she said.

No comments: