Sunday, October 7, 2012

GUEST VIEWPOINT: Eugene’s public safety zone unfairly enforced

I've posted before about my town's "exclusion law" which seems blatantly illegal, yet, it continues to be enforced. It has the approval of the city council, the mayor, and many, many citizens. Here's an excellent article by Jean Stacy, a local activist with Occupy Eugene, on the types of violations people are being cited for. GUEST VIEWPOINT: Eugene’s public safety zone unfairly enforced.

As the title of the article reads, it's euphemistically called "public safety zone" law but it is a law that targets those who are poor, or simply don't fit in with the random standards of the moment. Beyond that however is the real reason behind this law: control through fear. Fear of so-called "good citizens" who think they're immune from this kind of treatment because they pay taxes, they have jobs, they have no premeditated intent to break laws or cause trouble. Fear of those tax paying citizens of the homeless, the poor, society's misfits and trouble makers. Playing to those fears by appeasing them, local authorities passes "exclusion laws" to comfort the rest of us. And so, subtly those tax paying, honest citizens are also controlled.

The rest are controlled but through more blatant methods. Fear of being "excluded" from the downtown area -- which includes the public library -- fined, arrested, the rest of the hoi polloi are hassled. True, many of them hassle the rest of us. Pan handling, in your face groups of teens, etc. but that's life int he big city. Which, as much as Eugene pretends it is, it is not. Uncomfortable encounters with others does not give cause to enact unconstitutional laws.

Among the "crimes" people have been busted for, according to the article, is the felony charge of pot smoking. It would be a misdemeanor except for the following:
Thirty-five percent of the exclusion notices’ most egregious charges are for marijuana — not “serious crimes,” as stated by the police chief.

Ninety percent of those marijuana charges are bumped from violations to felonies by charging that they occurred within 1,000 feet of a tiny school hidden in the Overpark area — a school that few would know exists, because it is not marked or posted as a school.
Stacy writes of many other examples of Draconian actions by authorities; ridiculous and petty actions, including "theft of services" and a one armed man in a wheelchair being cited for breaking the leash law. (Leash was tied to wheelchair, but, since it wasn't in his hand -- his one hand -- he was in violation.)

As Stacy points out, how long will it be before the city of Eugene gets its totalitarian collective ass sued? It needs to happen, since local opposition to the law has been in the minority and the law continues to exist.

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