Tuesday, March 25, 2014


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.

Screw em.

Papa Bear has now moved on, but we know he will never really be gone.

The following is from The SF Bay View.


by Papa Bear with Leontyne Smith, Poor News Network
Papa Bear transitioned to his spirit journey on or around March 10. POOR Magazine will be holding a humble homegoing ceremony for him on the street corner where he lived and worked at Geary and Van Ness, San Francisco, on Tuesday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m. Bring a flower or a prayer to share.
Papa Bear at Community Newsroom by PNN
Papa Bear at Community Newsroom – Photo: PNN
Papa Bear, a survivor of the U.S. military industrial complex and the poor people hate law called sit-lie, which makes it illegal to sleep or sit on the street while poor, shared his monthly reports of living and working as a panhandler in the racist, classist streets of Amerikkka every month at POOR Magazine’s people’s newsroom we call Community Newsroom. Here is his last report, translated by PNN poverty skola Leontyne Smith.
As people know, Papa Bear comes to newsroom every month with a report straight from the streets of Frisco – as tired as he is from panhandling all day and getting harassed by the police. He said recently the police have expedited their patrols to every three to five minutes. They are taking photos of the dope dealers and beating them up.
As he talked about the usual stuff that goes on in the Tenderloin, he brought up the problems with power washing. A lot of people are dying because of the chemicals that the Department of Public Works puts in their washing solution. Some people think this is happening on purpose to demean the homeless and make them know they are supposed to be inferior.
I read on Google the only harm that happens to the homeless is self-inflicted, and they should just die without food and shelter. This month at Newsroom the news about how homeless folks in the room are getting treated is absurd. At shelters they make you sign in at 5 o’clock in the morning and you are never guaranteed a bed. They are usually infected with bed bugs, which are really hard to get rid of and usually you get bites all over your body almost instantly.
Papa Bear at Community Newsroom-2 by PNN
Papa Bear regularly reported on the criminalization and cruelty toward homeless people on the streets of San Francisco. – Photo: PNN
Other people in the room talked about how the staff are worse than the clients, and they do not care. Being that I have been working with Poor Magazine, I talk with a lot of people were homeless and/or living in low income housing, which in itself costs way too much now.
At the end of Papa Bear’s update, he talked about getting another warrant, which is No. 19 now, and he is aiming for 20. Police have broken his ribs for sleeping on the streets and now they are even closing parks just to give homeless people a hard time.
Golden Gate Park closes one hour before midnight, and that is making trouble for people enjoying the earth and people who need to sleep there too. Parks are nature, and that is something that brings peace and contentment of mind.
I used to love writing in my journal in the cuts of the trees in Golden Gate Park when I was a teenager. That was my escape from everybody and everything. It was like hiding out in a little forest where nobody could find me. There’s something about breathing in the trees, flowers and the beautiful plants.
I am not homeless, yet I am seriously mad as hell because nature is a safe haven for some people. Papa Bear has been homeless for a long time after serving his country for half his life, and what does he get? Racism and warrants, wow.
Leontyne Smith is an activist and journalist with Poor News Network. She can be reached viadeeandtiny@poormagazine.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.

Papa Bear on sit-lie laws

I’m Papa Bear. That’s my alias. My real name is Abdullah. What’s coming down on the street – I know you’ve seen it in the papers – is sit-lie laws are starting to be enforced in the Haight area and big time in the Tenderloin.
Papa Bear altar 0314
A loving memorial altar at Papa Bear’s corner – Photo: PNN
The shelter beds were full. I slept in an alley. I was arrested. I had to accept the judge’s ruling: one year probation and a stay-away order from the alley I slept in. If I’m caught in the alley I slept in, I get a year in county jail.
Having your freedom taken away is the worst thing that can happen to you. Someone telling you what to do. I’m my own man.
I’m a double vet. I spent two years in the army, two years in the Marines and too many years in Vietnam. I fought hard and worked hard for this country. I died for this country. In Vietnam, I woke up on a cot and they took me to surgery for 56 hours. I’m still hurting.
Sit-lie law is no joke. They are promoting it big time. Enforcing it big time. In the Tenderloin, there are more black and whites (cop cars), more undercover, and everyone is enforcing sit-lie.
People are scared. They’re terrified. You want to speak out, but people are scared. So many undercover, people are like, “Man, we scared.” But you got to go to sleep soon. Where you gonna go?


Jay Taber said...

Thanks for this. I remember another homeless vet who hawked PNN in front of the Citibank palace downtown. He had a bad leg, so he leaned on a parking meter as he greeted financial district workers with a cheery smile offering them street news with their morning lattes. When I stopped to visit on my way to work, I couldn't help thinking about my classmates who returned from Vietnam in caskets. They were only kids.

Oread Daily said...

and thank you for sharing