Don't sit or lie here, Council says

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Strand: City needs to stop people from sitting and lying on public ways.
  • Strand: City needs to stop people from sitting and lying on public ways.
Who wants to walk along a city street with people sprawled on the sidewalks and planter benches?

Colorado Springs City Council wants to criminalize that behavior and to do that it's preparing to adopt a "don't sit, don't lie" ordinance that's drawn opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

Outlined by Councilor Tom Strand, the ordinance would bar people from sitting and lying on public right of way and places not intended for sitting between 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except for Friday and Saturday nights when the restriction is from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Penalty would be a $2,500 fine and/or 189 days in jail.

"This whole ordinance is about safety of our community as a whole and economic vitality of our communities of downtown Colorado Springs and commercial area of Old Colorado City," Strand said.

This has been a typical scene at the corner of Pikes Peak and Tejon downtown. - L'AURA MONTGOMERY WILLIAMS
  • L'Aura Montgomery Williams
  • This has been a typical scene at the corner of Pikes Peak and Tejon downtown.

He said other cities have adopted similar ordinance that have stood up to court challenges.

The "don't sit, don't lie" zones would be bounded by:

Downtown — Cimarron Street on the south, Wahsatch Street on the east, Interstate 25 on the west, and St. Vrain Street on the north.

Old Colorado City — From 21st and 31st street between Pikes Peak Avenue and Cucharras Street, and along Colorado Avenue from 23rd to 28th streets.

But Councilor Jill Gaebler isn't convinced. She said she didn't think all the stakeholders have been included, and also that the ordinance might just move people from one place to another, such as to the parks.

Councilor Andy Pico said he has some reservations, but that most of his questions have been answered.

Two public meetings are upcoming in September, and City Council is slated to approve the ordinance on first reading on September 22.

The ACLU issued this statement Monday morning prior to the afternoon's Council meeting:
This afternoon, the Colorado Springs City Council will discuss a new proposal that would criminalize “sitting, kneeling, reclining or lying down” in various places, including on planters, sidewalks, and curbs, throughout downtown.

ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley issued the following statement:

“The ACLU of Colorado strongly opposes the proposed ‘sit-lie’ ordinance in Colorado Springs. Sitting innocently on a planter that appears designed for that purpose is not a threat to public safety. It is an absurd government overreach to make it a crime worthy of a $2500 fine and six months in jail to sit, kneel, or lie down in a public place
“This ordinance is clearly being proposed to give police another tool of selective enforcement to target, harass, and displace people who are homeless or living in poverty. Public spaces are more than just right-of-ways for shoppers and consumers. Courts have long recognized the importance of public streets and sidewalks as forums for free speech and peaceable assembly, and this ordinance would infringe on those fundamental rights.
“Rather than spending taxpayer dollars to criminalize peaceful conduct, Mayor Suthers and the Colorado Springs City Council should focus their attention on addressing the root causes of poverty and homelessness and on fixing well-established problems of racial bias and use of force in the police department.“

Resources:
Read Colorado Communities are Making it a Crime to be Homeless.
Visit the ACLU of Colorado Criminalization of Homelessness campaign page.

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