Federal Judge To Consider Constutional Rights Of Homeless Encampment Tomorrow

Margy Wlikinson
Monday October 30, 2017 - 08:07:00 PM

On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, attorneys representing the members of the Berkeley group, First They Came for the Homeless, will ask a federal judge to extend his injunction forbidding BART from evicting the homeless camp near the intersection of Martin Luther King Way and Alcatraz Ave in Berkeley. The hearing before Judge William H. Alsup will take place at 9:00 AM in Courtroom 8 in the federal courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco.​ 

On October 24, 2017, Judge Alsup issued a temporary restraining order forbidding BART from evicting the camp in South Berkeley until the hearing on October 31. The camp has been at its present location since January, 2017. The camp enjoys the support of many in the local area. Richie Smith, a South Berkeley resident since 1949 visits the camp regularly and says: I hope the court will have some compassion and allow this camp to remain in its present location. It has been a model camp in Alameda County and to disrupt and remove this camp at this time would be inhumane and a travesty. 

The issues to be argued involve the constitutional rights of homeless people. Their lawyers, Dan Siegel and EmilyRose Johns of Siegel, Yee & Brunner in Oakland, argue that criminalizing the homeless by evicting them under threat of arrest when they have nowhere to go violates their Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment because it penalizes people based on their status. The City of Berkeley does not have shelter space available and no alternative location for the camp. The Eighth Amendment has been applied in prior cases to strike down laws that penalize people because of their status, such as being addicted to alcohol or drugs. The attorneys also argue that confiscating and destroying the possessions of homeless people violates their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by depriving them of property without due process of law. 

The public is urged to attend the hearing. Attorneys Siegel & Johns will be available to speak to the press immediately after the hearing. 

For more information please call Hannah E Samson at 704 728 9230