Imagine all of the times you have sat on a public sidewalk. Whether you were waiting for a bus, eating food from a street car on the curb or just resting after a long day of shopping, chances are you never thought the act of sitting would become illegal. Last week, however, Proposition L was passed by San Francisco voters, changing the city’s police code to make sitting or lying on sidewalks illegal between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
The Foghorn staff believes that Proposition L unfairly targets homeless people who often populate the city’s sidewalks. Our argument, drawn from the “No on L” campaign, exists in the three parts. First, Proposition L is simply unnecessary. Laws already exist that prohibit the criminal behavior that Proposition L supporters claim to oppose. The illegality of sidewalk sitting would not directly prevent any particular crime or societal problem.
Second, the government’s focus should be on reducing homelessness, not banning the homeless from sidewalks. The money poured into the Proposition L campaign and the funding needed to enforce it in the future could be going to increasing resources for homeless shelters. Considering our proximity to the Haight, USF students are well aware of the rampant number of homeless people on the streets of our city. Unlike our government officials, however, the Foghorn staff believes that homelessness is the result of a flawed system. We should not fight the result of the system but, instead, fight the system itself.
Third, Proposition L is based on socioeconomic discrimination. Although the proposition never specifically states that it is targeted at the poorest members of our society, the Foghorn Staff is convinced that it was, indeed, written with class-based intentions. As students, we are angry that we can no longer legally sit in these public spaces, but we are also aware that we probably will not be punished if we do. Police officers will be looking for homeless people, street kids and persons who might appear “threatening.” The police force does not have the resources to enforce to convict every Prop L offender. Thus, citation fines and jail time will probably be reserved for those people who can afford them the least: the homeless.
What good could requiring individuals to stand rather than sit possibly do? We believe it is our job as USF students to promote social justice and build awareness about the city’s exploitation of poor individuals. We absolutely must take a stand. Homeless shelters and aid facilities need our help now more than ever. The Foghorn staff challenges you to do your part.
Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
Opinion Editor: Laura Waldron