THEY claim the sit/lie ordinance is there so that sidewalks aren't blocked. That is an obvious lie. Many people obstruct pedestrian traffic. This includes people waiting for buses, people stopping to talk or window shop, people who camp out for a cherished spot on parade routes, people who stop to listen to or watch street performers, people who wait in line to buy food at the food stands, etc. Those aren't the people the cops arrest and those aren't the people the authorities want the cops to arrest. You know that. I know that. Everyone knows that. So why not just rename these ordinances, "get the homeless out of my face" ordinances. These laws are simply meant to evict the homeless from the only home they have - the streets.
It is not constitutionally permissible to get away with laws that target people for who they are as opposed to what they do. So THEY find ways to work their way around such obstacles and legal niceties. So they pass laws against specific behaviors associated with people whom THEY don't want in our public space. Like laws prohibiting sitting on the sidewalk. A guest opinion in the SF Guardian a few years ago put it like this:
Over a hundred years ago, Anatole France famously praised "the majestic equality of the law that forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." He would no doubt smile at a law that forbids everybody from sitting on the sidewalk.
He might smile, but we should stand up and scream, "enough already." We should join with the homeless, who could be, who might be us, and shout that people are more important than capital, than business. We should look those gentrifiers in their face and tell them, "you don't get to turn the city into a theme park for you to play in." We should tell them to go back where they came from...
That brings us to a guy called Papa Bear. Poor Magazine tells us a little about who he is.
Papa Bear is a double vet who volunteered for the Vietnam War, he reports, “because my country said, 'fight for freedom.' At 17 years old, I was very proud of my country[...]. I felt that I should fight for my country and freedom.”
Papa Bear's tour ended when he nearly bled to death in combat. He says, “I was legally toe-tagged in the morgue for a day and a half. When they made their first cut for my autopsy, I woke up.” He says, “I bled to death. But it wasn't my time.”
Papa Bear was there for his brothers and sisters on the streets. Papa Bear was never afraid to speak his mind. Papa Bear was the sort of fellow THEY most especially wanted to just "move on." The beautiful people don't want to have to mingle with the Papa Bears of the world. The Papa Bears make them uncomfortable, not uncomfortable enough to want to try and figure out why there are people living on the streets, mind you, not uncomfortable enough to want to challenge a system that requires that people live on the streets...or is so miserable that some choose to live in freedom on that streets. Not that uncomfortable. They prefer to just not see such people. It spoils their day.
Papa Bear has now moved on, but we know he will never really be gone.
The following is from The SF Bay View.
PAPA BEAR'S FINAL REPORT: "A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE DYING" ON FRISCO STREETS