You Need To Move

cayley - Posted on 22 October 2010

“I really can’t have you guys sitting here, you need to move,” said the
security guard with tired eyes. My son and I, after ordering a slice of pizza from a
window, walked along the front to the pizza shop and sat under the front windows
with our backs on the wall. Three bites into our slice, myself sitting and by this
time my son running circles on the sidewalk in front of me, we were approached
by the security guard …“ Wait what?” I thought, “ Where are we supposed to
eat?” This was in Santa Cruz, CA April 2010. Santa Cruz’s sit-lie ordinance was
enacted in 1994.
       San Francisco has followed the trend set by cities like Santa Cruz and
Seattle in proposing a specific sit-lie ordinance making it illegal to sit or lay on
public sidewalk or on anything put on the sidewalk between the hours of 7am and
11pm. But this sit-lie ordinance is not the first of it’s kind in the city of San
Francisco, it is only the most recent attack on the city’s poor, homeless, youth,
day laborers, black and brown peoples, and people participating in underground
economic strategies. If passed in November the law would give police another
tool to criminalize these already highly criminalized people if caught sitting or
lying on public sidewalks.
       While sitting at a friends dinner table I told him about who I had seen
that day while biking around the city, “ There were elderly men resting, children
playing, people eating, mothers chatting, and groups of men talking, all while
sitting on the sidewalk,” and his response was “ They aren’t going to be
affected by this law, it is the people that businesses think are bad for business
that are going to be targeted.” In other words this is an attempt at a law that
would act as a sweeping law that would work to criminalize many of capitalism's “undesirables”.
       In a thriving western capitalist city, such as San Francisco, we are led to
believe that only certain people should be seen in public. In this city it is not okay
for people to be houseless, poverty is something to be hidden away out of the
public view because its threatens the image of a “clean “ city.
I don’t think that it was an accident that it took four years of living near the
city of Santa Cruz for me to be told to “ move along” while sitting on the sidewalk.
My white skin, clean clothes, and my association as a college student in a college
town has allowed me to mask my herstory of poverty and houselessness and, in
many authorities eyes, allowed me to be privileged enough to sit on the sidewalk
when I pleased. This is one of the layers that lies within the proposed law, in most
cases there are only some who will be harassed in the name of the sit lie
ordinance. Perceived race and economic status will determine to what extent
authorities will punish you for sitting or lying in public space.
       Many have already pointed out the law will most likely have to be used
selectively with people who are either homeless, youth, day laborers, poor, a
person of color and or those surviving on the underground economy being the
most hard hit. We are continuing in a pattern to criminalize public space and
sending a clear message that these people are not welcome or wanted in public
       After this ordinance was voted down by the board of supervisors, Mayor
Gavin Newsom used his executive privileges to put it on this November's ballot
and I can’t help but wonder were is it that Gavin Newsom wants us to be? Where
is it okay to be?

get out of them, we can build better place to live and live a better law. addicted to the system, that why people still poor.

Great piece and good job linking your experience to the "Sit Lie" proposal, Cayley!


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