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New Santa Monica Law Would Make it Illegal for Homeless To Speak in City Downtown

by WorkingDemocracy! Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008 at 6:20 PM (213) 251-0041 (ext. 111)

City Seeks Vague Anti-Homeless Law as Pretext to Drive Homeless from its Downtown

New Santa Monica Law...
homeless.jpg, image/jpeg, 135x186

Santa Monica, in what they may outrageously hope will spark a national trend in homeless harassment --and new violations of their rights of free speech, and even their right now to just even sit down --has now, this week, proposed a new law that, incredibly, will make it illegal for any homeless person to even speak now while sitting down in downtown Santa Monica.

Already, it is illegal here for anyone to sit down on the sidewalk; or on the ledges around any fountain in the heart of Santa Monica's business district --it's Third Street Promenade. And that law is never enforced here against any but the homeless.The effect of this proposed new law would be that homeless beggars here --will also now be forced to stand up all day long.

And not even able to sit on its benches.

But the real purpose of this law --even admitted by the City in their own public testimony, is to go even further.

They want to chase homeless people out of Santa Monica.

And deny them the right to even speak now downtown without police harassment.

(This article continues below. The following audio transcript from official city websites.)




Go to the last 5 minutes of this February 26, 2008 Santa Monica City Council meeting to hear SMPD and its Bayside Business District admit that they are targeting only homeless and poor people with this ban.

City Attorney Marsha Motrie can even be head to swear towards anybody questioning the process that is leading towards this attack on the homeless in this official transcript.

The factiously whitewashed "ordinance" --and supposedly claiming it not targeting the homeless for police harassment--is presented here.

But even it gives itself away --by declaring the ordinance is not against "solicitations" as they claim, but "panhandling" --a clear statement that it is designed to be aimed only at the homeless.



(Continued from above)

Currently, most homeless people begging in this public space, Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, that was built with public funds --sit quietly, on its sidewalk benches and display little signs, mostly asking for some help, and some spare change. -- the biggest effect of this law will solely be, though, to muzzle now, ALL their speech and expression.

And not just their vaguely described "solicitation."


As an activist here recently stated, WorkingDemocracy! member David Busch, "Right now homeless people in Santa Monica often have no place to go, and they therefore will still seek to sit on these public benches on the Promenade. Homeless people in Santa Monica will continue to come and sit on these public benches because they have no homes --and these benches are pleasant --and this new law will do absolutely nothing at all to lessen the number of homeless people here in Santa Monica."

"One of the richest cities in America."

"Or," adds Busch, "Will this help end homelessness anywhere else in America --the most powerful nation on earth today. Where 25% of our military budget alone, according to the very mainstream 'Center for Budget and Policy Priorities,' --would end all poverty in the nation."

(SEE Center For Budget and Policy Priorities, "Poverty Gap")

So should there really be a law allowed anywhere in America, or even anywhere on this planet though, to make it a crime for people with no homes at all --to just even speak about it?

And even if they are merely just sitting down?

Because in reality, according to the homeless advocates here, that is what this law will now do.

Explains Busch; "If passed, in the future, as soon a homeless person sits down in this public space, under this new law, the Santa Monica Police will now target them solely because of their class as being homeless --and because of the content of their speech and expression."

Busch has been homeless for over 13 years --living on both L.A.'s Skid Row for almost two years, and on the Westside, mostly in Santa Monica.

According to his group and others, solicitors for the environmental groups such as Greenpeace --on this same street, can and do, right now, carry signs and wear shirts, that say “Support Greenpeace” --and rightly solicit on the Promenade; this public space; and will no doubt continue to do so; even if this law against the homeless’ speech and signs, and public expression, is passed. As do other groups. "But if one of these Greenpeace supporters, currently out there, merely sits down on a public bench though --wearing such a shirt that says 'Support Greenpeace' –how likely is it that they will be ticketed now by Santa Monica Police Department?" asks Busch.

What if someone comes up to them while they are sitting, and wants to donate to this environmental cause? Are they likely to be targeted by this city’s police --if they merely stand up to take the donation?

"But the city police will surely now over-broadly be targeting the homeless for this, and even less," insists this homeless man.

Because, says Busch, the City has already declared what their “intent” is –according to him, in their own documentation, "they say they want to pass this law solely to go after “homeless” people asking for donations"

But what if a homeless person is sitting down on one of these benches, and is holding a sign that merely says “Support the Homeless”? Or, what if they are wearing a tee shirt, or even a hat, that merely says “Homeless”?

It is clear that the city’s police --under this vague law, will be targeting only the homeless, even if they merely sit down now, for things like this, he says.

And, unlike the others here, soliciting for the environment, or for political candidates, or even for homeless charities – they will now be singling out the homeless here constantly; and hovering, and monitoring their speech; and attempting to claim that even merely such signs, or such hats, themselves, showed the homeless person’s “intent” to solicit.

This so-called “law” is all about unequal enforcement --and pretexts for homeless harassment –and is based purely against a person’s speech, and class:

as a homeless person.

It is hard to imagine any city in America that would dare try to make it illegal for a Baptist, for instance, holding a sign, saying “Come to Jesus” --to sit on one of these benches, and while sitting there to “solicit” for followers of Jesus. Or even a person of the Muslim, or other faith, to sit down with someone, no matter how many of them were constantly in some part of the City --and say that they couldn’t "solicit," all day long if they wanted to, for their souls, and also, by extension, their lifetime of continued considerable “donations” --on these benches.

No matter how many of them were there --“witnessing” everyday.

And no matter how long, or how often, they sat there witnessing. No city in America would dare try to pass a law against this type of religious “solicitation.”

This law unconstutionally intrudes on homeless peoples speech; and is based solely on it’s content.

That they are “soliciting” for mere pocket change.

And this, say many advocates nationwide, is because the rich here in this City of Santa Monica hate the homeless --and want only to drive them away. And despite it’s claim to be homeless tolerant –the City has even gone so far, as to put it into law, that it will spend no more than even 1% of its current budget --to help the homeless. Moreover, while claiming to be “progressive” --they have conspired with greedy merchants here to spend public money --to create this notoriously noxious “upscale” area; its luxury Promenade, that promotes environmentally and socially unsustainable and overpriced consumption of luxury foods, and liquors, and trinkets, and (often sweatshop made) clothing.

People come here, lured --and with their disposable incomes. And so the environmentalists, and the religious, and the homeless come here too; seeking these funds, as donations, to fight all this.

They all come here to this public space; built with public money, as free speech “witnesses” --to what other, more important things, people can donate these funds to.

Rather than just the corporate controlled, mindless, and soulless, greedy consumption --that the stores on this street, and with this city bending over backwards for them now --pushes like all other drugs: through every billboard, radio, and tv ad they can commandeer from the politicians like those here in Santa Monica; who just continually suck up their donations; and are ready, every day, to throw away more of the constitutional right of people here to not have their speech censored; or their right to protest against any of this abrogated.

Or --just their right to try and survive –in the midst of all this greed: and this wealthy city’s drunken inebriation with being “rich”.

May it be therefore, these advocates say --that they instead all clog every bench here --until there is not a single homeless person; or threat of global warming, or poverty, anywhere on this planet anymore:

Or soul --that just doesn’t get it.

It’s about their free speech.

Especially, they say, "...when we are homeless --and that speech is all, in our lives, that we have got left."

Amazingly while even recognizing that they activity the city seeks to use as their pretext for this "solicitation" is the clear anti-homeless code word "panhandlers," nevertheless, claimed one Santa Monica Councilman, Ken Genser, "I think this... ...isn't discriminating against any class."



If you would like to oppose this law, the advocates ask that you the City Council of Santa Monica immediately.

And also send the email to the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce; which is the business cabal that runs roughshod on this public street here.

(As well as at the expense of all the other businesses in this city.)

Tell them how much you oppose this law.

Which is clearly merely an unconstitutional pretext --to set a new lead in this nation, to unlawfully favor only certain luxury businesses here; and to set a new low in abrogating the human rights, and harassing all homeless people everywhere --for merely being poor: and by some of the richest, most selfish, and luxury obsessed people in any City, anywhere, in America.

Tell them all that you will never shop on this street –or spend money in any of this City’s businesses ever again --if they now pass this new low in attacks on the rights of this nation’s poorest.

Email: Santa Monica City Council,

Email: Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce,

Advocates say that you can also help --by also adding a "CC" of these emails to


(be sure to include the exclamation point in their URL!)


[PHOTO: courtesy UCLA Daily Bruin, 10/30/2002 --used under "Fair Use" guidlines]

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