Opinion: The Sit/Lie law would just allow the cops to get more aggressive towards protesters, park(ing) Day parties, sidewalk sales, or people just having fun on the sidewalk

Marc Caswell of the Western Addition sent this as a response to our post on the Sit/Lie graffiti:

It is already illegal to block the sidewalk in San Francisco, which is a real problem, especially for people with disabilities, by SF Administrative Code Section 1, Article 22. But the newly proposed Sit/Lie law would really just allow the cops to get more aggressive on anyone they feel like, be it protesters, park(ing) Day parties, sidewalk sales, or people just having fun on the sidewalk, and, of course, low-income folks. Remember, many people moved to San Francisco for its vibrant public life, so criminalizing merely existing on the sidewalk is counter to everything San Francisco stands for.

The law isn’t really the issue—it’s the message it sends to cops & the community that I have a problem with—and the idea of banning a specific physical act in a public space (that isn’t lewd or lascivious) seems insanely ridiculous. Of course, we can all sit in our cars at parking meters all day (the Tenderloin this happens a lot)—and that wouldn’t be illegal—so if you own a car, you can sit on public space (inside your car)… but meanwhile, you’re outta luck if you don’t.

The specific intent of the law—to limit street drug dealing or violence/threatening behavior—I don’t really see how sitting or lying relates to it. You usually want to stand up when doing either of those actions, so this law is really just a red herring to allow cops to get hard-line on anyone they feel like on the streets. And of course, this issue has been framed as a response to the current problems in the Upper Haight, but the law would be applicable city-wide. If they wanted to, those who support it could easily create a special district to enforce the sit/lie policy only in Haight, but they haven’t for obvious reasons.

Of course, this is all part of the bigger game.  Just as then-supervisor Gavin Newsom introduced a resolution to put a similar Quality of Life issue, “Care Not Cash” on the ballot for the first major District elections vote in November 2002, he and his conservative allies are doing it again: they want to turn out those voters who are “sick and tired” of panhandling and poor people, who will hopefully vote against the strong progressive movement in San Francisco. It’s all a big shell game, but in the end, if San Franciscans lose the right to exist on a sidewalk unless they are traveling from Point A to Point B, will we be a better, or worse off city?

Thanks Marc!


Comments (1)

Why can’t we have a No Gutterpunk ordinance?

Like with the Chinese during the 1800’s?