The city of Olympia recently passed a no sit/lie ordinance that unfairly targets the most disenfranchised people in our community, the poor and the homeless. The ordinance criminalizes very normal human behavior, sitting on the ground.
The law, designed as a means of upholding public safety standards and promoting community values, is unconstitutional. The law violates basic constitutional rights like the first amendment right to assemble. These rights trump the perceived right of local merchants to control our city's sidewalks.
Now the city of Olympia is considering passing an ordinance that would prohibit people from camping anywhere downtown. The reasoning behind the proposed ordinance is that a few people, who have been camping at night in front of city hall, have created an untenable problem for city employees.
The evidence presented by the city to support this assertion is based on a few isolated incidents. Laws already exist in Olympia to protect people from unruly dogs, or to provide access to public space (i.e. it's already against the law to obstruct another person from accessing a building).
The alleged incidents that created the recent uproar occurred less than 100 feet from the front door to the city police department. Why couldn't the police adequately respond to the perceived problem ? If a dog bites a person, or a person can not access a public utility, the proper response of the city is to dispatch a police officer to the scene to issue a citation. Laws already exist to address these problems. The police are not doing their jobs.
Further criminalization of access to public space is not an acceptable response to these isolated incidents. The space in front of city hall is not used by the city at night and is considered one of the few "safe" places downtown.
There is a long history of vagrancy laws in the US; many of these laws have been deemed unconstitutional. Rather than passing additional laws the city should use the laws that already exist. The way to decrease people from defecating in public is to provide public toilets. The way to decrease problems associated with homelessness is to provide a safe space to those who find themselves in such circumstances.
In reality, the city of Olympia has been considering anti-vagrancy laws for many years. Please sign this petition to tell the Olympia City Council that you do not approve of the ordinance passed on 12 18 2012 that bans sitting on public sidewalks and to let the council understand you do not support a proposed ban on camping in front of city hall. Please sign, your voice matters.
Goal - 500 local signatures before 01 08 2013. The petition will be presented to the Oympia City Council in opposition to their proposed vagrancy law (and the vagrancy law they passed on 12 18 12).