(Statement to be read at the next public hearing about the proposed sit-lie law.)
City Council members, fellow citizens, ladies and gentlemen:
I rise today–as many others do–strongly opposed to this proposed ordinance.
There is a problem in our city, which demands a solution; but this ordinance comes from that problem, and does not at all address it. The problem is apathy. Our apathy.
Poor people, without jobs or homes or anywhere to go, stand on our street corners and beg us for help, then sit down when they’re tired, and we ignore them, and we push them away, and we punish them for coming back, and that’s the problem.
This proposed ordinance pretends to address loitering, and pan-handling, and vandalism, and some supposed congestion on public walkways, which presumably blocks access to local businesses. But this pretended premise is false. For the real purpose of the proposed ordinance is revealed in what its real consequences will be: punishing poor people for being poor.
And the consequences are excessively harsh, including fines of up to $2500. For what, sitting down too long? And tell me now, how are poor people supposed to pay these steep fines? And what are the consequences of non-payment, or repeat “offenses”? Jail time? In America, we long ago abolished debtors’ prisons; but this proposed ordinance, in effect, could bring them back.
Some people may say this proposed ordinance is objectively no different from any other anti-loitering law. I disagree. This proposed ordinance is morally offensive. Punishing poor people for being poor is morally wrong. This proposed ordinance is a crime against compassion.
We should be discussing today how best to help poor people escape from poverty, and what we all can do together to achieve this noble goal–not debating how best to herd people away. Pushing poor people out of sight, out of mind is not a solution, it’s a sin.
I object strongly to this proposed ordinance, and I pray God forgives us for having even considers it.