Against Anti-Panhandling Law

RECEIVED Tue., Oct. 16, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Re: The anti-panhandling proposal: The bottom line is, do we truly believe in equal rights for every citizen? Or do we endorse a philosophy that either doles out or restricts constitutional rights based on a person's economic class?
    Most people these days are beginning to comprehend racism – so please let's try to apply what we've learned from that to classism.
    This isn't about what is annoying, inconvenient, rude, or obnoxious. This is about the fact that people are seriously proposing to remove a group of people's constitutional right to ask for money. As does everyone in some form, shape, or fashion.
    Certainly if a homeless person is being dangerous, then that's another story, but laws already exist to handle that.
    And please do not think that some developers don't also exercise their own version of "high-dollar panhandling" via land squeeze-outs, deals made behind closed doors, and property takings, etc. (Hopefully we will not construe that all developers are of this yoke just because some are, anymore than we should construe that all panhandlers are dangerous just because some are.)
    We already have laws on the books for crooks and for folks behaving dangerously.
    The question is: Are these laws going to be enforced equitably across the economic strata, or will special privileges be handed out to the upper class while the lower classes are criminalized for actions of a lesser crime and even for actions that are not a crime?
    What role will law enforcement play in either equalizing or stratifying the treatment of citizens of different classes?
    Finally, have some people forgotten about the Great Depression? How many of these folks who now wish to criminalize the homeless actually had ancestors who endured the harsher aspects of the Great Depression – including perhaps being homeless?
In good spirit,
Allissa Chambers
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