activists gear up for campaign against proposed sit/lie law in berkeley, california

by Tim Phillips

In the election roughly two months from now, Berkeley voters will decide whether to make it a crime to sit on sidewalks in the city’s commercial districts between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. If voters approve the law, it will go into effect on July 1, 2013. Similar laws already exist in approximately three dozen cities across the U.S.

As homeless people generally cannot pay fines, sit/lie laws put them at risk of facing bench warrants. After judges issue bench warrants, people can be incarcerated if they are detained or arrested (e.g., during a sweep), which disrupts any employment and separates them from their belongings – medications, sleeping bags, work tools, or personal keepsakes. Even if they manage to avoid being detained or arrested after a bench warrant issues, the outstanding warrant can block access to public housing.

The ordinance, Measure S, would also criminalize activists who sit or lie on sidewalks in commercial districts, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., during unpermitted political demonstrations or encampments.

If you can afford to donate to the campaign, please visit the Berkeley Stand Up for the Right to Sit Down Coalition website. If not, please tell your friends about this grassroots effort.