[Hpn] Tempe, AZ - Homeless, others protest city's 'no camping' ordinance - ASU Web Devil - November 17, 2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Mon, 17 Nov 2003 22:33:11 -0500

Homeless, others protest city's 'no camping' ordinance

Group says law criminalizes homeless people
By Jesse Christopherson - ASU Web Devil - November 17, 2003

Tempe, AZ - Protesters march Saturday night on Mill Avenue
in opposition to Tempe´s Urban Camping Ordinance.

More than 50 protesters chanted, "Neil is a creep! Let people
sleep!" and other slogans as they paraded up and down Mill Avenue
on Saturday night to oppose Tempe's Urban Camping Ordinance.

The protest was organized by the Free to Camp Coalition in
reaction to the ordinance, enacted in 1997, that prohibits
erecting shelters, laying down bedding for the purpose of
sleeping, storing belongings, starting a fire, cooking or living
in a vehicle in Tempe's public places. The protesters referred to
Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano as well in one of their chants.

ASU plant biology postgraduate Elizabeth Venable, who coordinated
the protest, said she wanted to "deal explicitly" with the
criminalization of homelessness.

"People aren't addressing the political issues and the ways the
state punishes [the homeless] or the ways people become
homeless," she said. She added that the ordinance banned
activities "normal people" can do without thinking that they're
"immoral" or illegal.

"But sitting doesn't hurt anyone and sleeping doesn't hurt
anyone, and they're the basic things that people need to do to
stay alive," Venable said. "The message that [the homeless] are
getting is that homeless people shouldn't be able to stay alive.
Like they're not worthy of living."

Protester and ASU journalism freshman Kate Elliott said it's
"ludicrous" that homeless people can't sleep on the street when
there's no homeless shelter in Tempe.

About 40 protesters and several members of Phoenix Copwatch met
at the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive, then
walked the length of the east side of Mill Avenue, carrying
placards and waving signs.

The group continued to Sixth Street, where protesters spread out
blankets in front of Islands restaurant in symbolic protest of
the "laying down bedding" clause in the ordinance.

Tempe police officers, who generally stay at least several meters
from the protesters, told them through a loudspeaker to move
because the property owners had complained.

The protesters continued on to the entrance of retail clothing
store Abercrombie & Fitch, where they sat and chanted, "We don't
want a yuppie nation!" and "Shelters, not jails!"

ASU nursing junior Anna Mitchell, who was working at Abercrombie
& Fitch Saturday night, said she sympathized with the protesters'

"I think [the Urban Camping Ordinance] isn't really fair to the
homeless people because they don't have any other option," she

Protester Kevin Lyons, 25, said he's lived on the streets of
Tempe for the past 11 months.

"This ain't no free country. It's a free country for people with
money," he said, adding that he "has no life" as a result of the

"I can't sleep at night," he said.

By the end of the protest, several people had joined the
protesters spontaneously.

Daniel Worster, 19, of Tempe and his fiancée Dany Varela, 21,
were on Mill Avenue when they saw the protesters and decided to
join them and help in gathering signatures for a petition
opposing the ordinance.

"This seemed more important than doing anything recreational,"
said Worster, who said he has been homeless in the past. "I think
it's wrong to take away anyone's freedom because it's basically a
form of discrimination."

Varela said it's tough for homeless people in Tempe because there
isn't a shelter nearby and shelters in neighboring cities are
often full.

Reach the reporter at jesse.christopherson@asu.edu.
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