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.

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