2012/01/04

Discriminatory Enforcement of the Sit/Lie Law in SF

A year ago San Francisco passed the notorious Sit/Lie law, which makes it illegal to sit or lie on a sidewalk between 7am and 11pm. As written, it forbids sitting on the curb while waiting for the bus, sitting on a chair outside your house during a yard sale, or sitting on the ground to repair a flat tire on a bicycle.

Why would such a silly law even be proposed? Why, to further harass homeless people, of course. The law is intended to be applied unevenly. And this is of course what is happening.

On December 11th I was walking through the Upper Haight. This is the neighbourhood of San Francisco that had an alleged "emergency" of assaults and harassment by homeless "thugs" that required a new, unconstitutional law to stop it. I was pleasantly surprised to find a band playing from within a recessed entranceway. Their keyboardist was outside, sitting on a chair on the sidewalk (illegal). A group of passers-by stopped and listened, and some of them sat down as well (also illegal). When I sat down we had five (5) people blatantly violating the Sit/Lie law at 1:30pm in the afternoon:

Five musicians in an entranceway, one keyboardist on the sidewalk, with an open guitar case.

A woman leans over to pet a dog in the lap of one of three audience members seated on the sidewalk.

Perhaps, you might be saying, the police weren't been discriminatory in their enforcement of this law. They just happened not to be there when this crime occurred. Not so. I saw a beat cop approach, and was able to snap a shot before he disappeared into the distance, having not even paused at the gathering on the sidewalk:


This is the "discretion" San Francisco has given its police - this is the "tool" they "need". They apply the law selectively against homeless people, in blatant violation of the US Constitution.

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