More than 60 Berkeley residents and city and community leaders rallied support today at the city's downtown Constitution Square for their campaign to defeat Measure S, a “sit-lie” proposal on this November’s ballot which would make it illegal to sit on a sidewalk in commercial corridors.
Speakers included city councilmember Max Anderson, ACLU attorney Linda Lye, Berkeley homeless activist Ninja Kitty, and Dan McMullan of Disabled People Outside.
“This is pure snake oil, a solution in search of a problem,” said city councilmember Max Anderson. He called Measure S “political quackery” that blames homeless people for the city’s business downturn—a problem Anderson linked to Emeryville malls and the lack of a downtown anchor store to draw more business.
Linda Lye, an attorney with ACLU of Northern California, argued that Measure S infringes on free speech and assembly and represents a further restriction of public space. Sidewalks, she said, are important areas of public exchange and culture, now under threat from Measure S.
Speakers also cited an independent report by San Francisco City Hall Fellows showing that a parallel “sit-lie” law there accomplished nothing for merchants, homeless people, or public safety.
Another speaker, Dan McMullan of Disabled People Outside, described homeless people’s everyday struggles simply to survive in the streets, saying Measure S adds no solutions but harasses poor people who need help rather than more policing.
The event attracted numerous passersby who stopped to hear the speakers and their musical accompaniment, the famed Brass Liberation Orchestra. Event organizers with Berkeley Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down/No on S said the campaign kick-off is an opening salvo in their attempt to educate voters that “there are real solutions to homelessness, such as housing and job options, and Measure S does nothing but push poor people around.”
For more campaign information and updates, visit http://www.noonsberkeley.com/