If a BID Officer observes a person who, because of their homelessness commits one of the following misdemeanors:
- Obstructing passage on sidewalks
- Living or sleeping in a vehicle
- Loitering in a restroom
- Use of facilities, e.g., sleeping on a bus bench for other than intended purpose
- Public nudity as is necessary to carry on the daily necessities of life
- Building a structure in a park or public right-of-way
- Trespass on or in public or private property
The Officer may offer such individual(s) the option of going to an available shelter in the surrounding Hollywood community as an alternative to arrest. If the homeless person accepts the offer of assistance, no arrest shall take place and arrangements shall be made to transport the homeless person to the shelter.
Pass over the dyslexic parrot-like legalese. Pass over the semiliterate, unparseable sentences. Pass over the absolutely unintelligible yet still horrific phrase “sleeping on a bus bench for other than intended purpose.” Consider for now just the fact that in June 2014, five months before the date on this document, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found LA’s law against sleeping in vehicles to be unconstitutional.
So Andrews International Security, with the full knowledge and consent of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, has directed its officers to give homeless people sleeping in their cars a choice between arrest or coerced relocation to a homeless shelter. This, despite the fact that common sense, human decency, and the goddamned Ninth Circuit all agree that people have a constitutional right to sleep in their cars, whether or not it’s “because of their homelessness.”
And now take a look at California Civil Code §52.1(a), which states:
If a person or persons, whether or not acting under color of law, interferes by threats, intimidation, or coercion, or attempts to interfere by threats, intimidation, or coercion, with the exercise or enjoyment by any individual or individuals of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or of the rights secured by the Constitution or laws of this state, the Attorney General, or any district attorney or city attorney may bring a civil action for injunctive and other appropriate equitable relief in the name of the people of the State of California, in order to protect the peaceable exercise or enjoyment of the right or rights secured. An action brought by the Attorney General, any district attorney, or any city attorney may also seek a civil penalty of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000). If this civil penalty is requested, it shall be assessed individually against each person who is determined to have violated this section and the penalty shall be awarded to each individual whose rights under this section are determined to have been violated.
And threatening someone with arrest for something that is not even a crime unless they agree under duress to go to a homeless shelter is certainly covered by this law. Note that the HPOA annual budget is around $3,000,000. Half of this goes to paying A/I for running the BID patrol, leaving $1,500,000 for paying the fines incurred by just 60 of these arrests. The fines goes to the victim, too. How long can the HPOA rely on plaintiff’s lawyers just leaving the money on the table, eh? Hopefully not too long.
The larger issue at stake, though, is that the whole document assumes it’s somehow OK to use the threat of arrest to coerce someone into leaving the streets of Hollywood. It’s not. If homeless people commit these crimes because of their homelessness, they’re almost certainly not even crimes. But suppose that they are crimes. Just because someone commits a crime they don’t therefore leave themselves open to coercion, intimidation, forced resettlement, the abrogation of their rights as a free human being. Maybe this is hard to imagine if you’re not homeless?
Pretend that you get pulled over for speeding and the cop says you won’t get a ticket if you get down on your knees and pray to Satan.1 Pretend that you’re taking off your bathing suit under a towel at the beach and it slips for a second and a cop says you won’t get arrested if you agree not to vote in the next election. Pretend that you sit down on a bus bench because your feet hurt and a cop tells you you won’t get arrested if you move to fucking Montana because we don’t need your kind around here. Too much pretending? At this point it’s easier than pretending we live in a sane and humane city.
Here’s the whole directive, we’ll have more to say about it later, you can be sure:
- Maybe you already pray to Satan. We’re aware that a significant number of our readers do, in fact, worship him. In this case, just substitute Jesus or Jerry Brown or anyone you really don’t want to be coerced into praying to, K?
Image of BID Patrol Officers in Winchell’s is ©2014 MichaelKohlhaas.org. Image of lady sleeping in car is in public domain because it was made by an employee of the federal government under such conditions as to put the image in the public domain. Got it? Get your copy here. Image of dye-pack stained cash by Colin Brown, released under the CC BY 2.0 and available here via Wikimedia.