Saturday, August 23, 2014

Suffering in The Shadow of Miami

The same week the City of Ft Lauderdale considered ever harsher anti-homeless laws, Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced his  intent to require Miami-Dade police officers to wear body cams. Gimenez linked this request to recent anti-police protests in Ferguson, Missouri, saying that they would "assure that there's confidence in the police department." Admittedly, Miami's police has occassionally caused reason for concern. 

Now contrast this progress to the City of Fort Lauderdale, whose agenda last week included new ordinances that will expand the situations in which the FLPD will be able to arrest homeless people for sleeping, urinating, storing their belongings, and asking for money in public. Fort  Lauderdale's modern day "Bumbuster Squad" for years have enjoyed nearly universal control over whether or not homeless people's bodily functions are going to get them arrested in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

However, Miami is already going one further than the body cams, since they are also legally prohibited from interfering with a homeless person who is engaged in an activity necessary to sustaining life. Since 1998, the Pottinger Agreement has protected the rights of homeless people do things like urinate, sleep, even bathe in public in the City of Miami.

Outside Main Library 6.14
Now to be sure Miami is not some shining city to be exactly emulated...there is no such place. But there is an important difference between Cities who are trying to improve on terrible mistakes they've made, versus Fort Lauderdale, which has consistently been treating homeless people like vermin to be disposed of for 20 or 30 years now with no change in attitude. Miami's attrition against their homeless population was going nowhere, and they changed that dynamic. Miami's cops behaved brutally, and now there's a chance at greater oversight of their actions.

Fort Lauderdale does not seem to be learning from its mistakes. Unfortunately, legally protecting the rights of homeless people and requiring their police to wear bodycams would be  virtually impossible in Fort Lauderdale because it would severely interrupt the only plan they have had for years for dealing with homeless people: Uninterrupted, systemic oppression. If the City was no longer able to wrongfully harass, ticket, and arrest homeless people whenever a police officer feels like it, they would be left with no plan at all for dealing with them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Epic Filibuster, Vigil Keeps The Focus On Homelessness

As the fall session of the Fort Lauderdale City Commission convened, the actions of the City's public officials couldn't help but dog them.

War On The Homeless: Jaywalking Blitz Edition
FLPD ticketing jaywalkers next to Stranahan Park (from Invisible People FtL)

Homeless advocates couldn't even get to the Commission without being caught up in the City's discriminatory tactics towards the homeless - Broward Boulevard was turned into a giant jaywalking trap! Coincidentally focused on the exact areas that homeless people live in downtown, FLPD was handing out $60 tickets to anyone who didn't strictly adhere to the crosswalk lights, including two contributors to this blog. While two officers involved insisted this was not about homelessness, none of the 3 homeless advocates that observed this procedure saw tickets being issued to anyone other than FLPD's usual targets in downtown, homeless people and young black males.

The walk-up to City Hall had another spectacular reminder of the City's mistakes coming back to haunt them; this roving billboard was parked out front. The City has made few friends this year!

Vigils and "Hijackers"

Raymond Cox, filibuster savant
It's true, without the dedication of homeless advocates this Ft Lauderdale City Commission would've been utterly forgettable, a bureaucratic tragedy. One homeless advocate described their experience as "3 1/2 hours, and nothing was addressed," although an hour was given over to talking about "pineapples." Fortunately as described by the Sun Sentinel, Raymond Cox "hijacked" the meeting, signing up to speak on every agenda item and inevitably tying them back to the City's apathetic, harmful approach to helping homeless people.

Completely separately, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs was joined by congregants from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale for a silent vigil outside City Hall.

It seemed that no matter how much the City wanted to talk about spending money on swimming pools and limousines and figuring out how they could tax the internet (yes really this all was on the agenda), the City's pathetic homeless policies, which have recently been described by mainstream media outlets as "ethnic cleansing" and a "war on the homeless", just won't go away. Kudos to Raymond Cox for making sure the inhumane treatment of human beings took precedent over Olympic-size swimming pools and zoning restrictions! 

We will be back with more soon, and so will the City of Fort Lauderdale - the next commission meeting is Wednesday, 9.3.2014, and they will likely be discussing all the same homeless ordinances that they tabled at this meeting. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Anti-Homeless Laws Return August 19th

On Tuesday, August 19th, the City of Fort Lauderdale will have almost every anti-homeless law that they proposed back in January on the schedule. While most are expected to be deferred until the next meeting on September 3rd, it shows the City is still quite determined to see all the Homeless Hate Laws enacted this fall.

One way or another ordinances or amendments to ordinances for the public indecency code, and expansions against panhandling, storage on public property, and camping on public property are all scheduled on the agenda and open to public comment. Join homeless advocates as we continue to convince the City to stop these laws.

Park closed 8.15.2014
The bigger picture for the homeless folk in downtown Fort Lauderdale is even darker. "All Aboard Florida" is coming with a major redevelopment plan for the area surrounding the downtown bus terminal - one of the primary areas that homeless people are still allowed to congregate around downtown. But talks of "promoting commerce" with the building of condos and shops is also a veiled threat at the dozens of people who live in this area because of its current lack of value. And if you want a cursory example of how homeless people's freedom of movement downtown is determined entirely by the wealthy and powerful, look no further than Stranahan Park, which was closed again on Friday because the Women's Club was doing an event next door.

Beyond the suffering that will be created by these laws, this will also leave only one remaining proposal from the  batch  created by the City back in January: a public sharing ban. The City approving these 4 laws will mean that all their attention will be focused on stealing food from out of the mouths of hungry people. We have to stop them!
First the park is filled and fenced...will these sharings disappear as well?