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War on the Poor

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“O scathful harm, condition of poverte!” -Chaucer

By Joshua Stanfield Switzer

“What the hell is ‘Vending Without a License?’”
“Citation.”
“Two hundred thirty-eight dollars!?!”
“$238.”
“This is police harassment!” And it was! The Pig. “You know, three blocks up, this is called a yard sale. You’d never write them a ticket!” I accused.
“Shut up, or I’ll cite you for public intoxication.”
So, I shut up. Because poverty will always be more powerful than the police.
This War on the Poor has ratcheted up another notch with Proposition L, a law to ban sitting, lying, or stopping on a sidewalk, if you’re poor. Why do we continue to encumber law enforcement with handling sociological, economic, medical, psychiatric, or public health problems? I just can’t understand. It’s sending a nightclub bouncer to perform emergency surgery…on your mother.
The only way to reduce crime is to improve reality! If you want people to be productive and working, then pay them a living wage. What an ugly concept: minimum wage…one cent above illegal? How about a reality wage?
And if you don’t want us pausing on your sidewalks, then offer some alternatives. And STOP PAVING THE PLANET!
Poverty requires ingenuity and perseverance. Survival drives a harder bargain than any beat cop or municipal code.
$238 for a few items on a blanket is a lotta do-re-mi! Up the hill it’s called a “yardsale.” Down here it’s “vending without a license.”
That’s just how the Fuzz handle the poor. Up the hill it’s a BBQ, down here it’s “Open Container.” We call it having a party, they call it unlawful assembly. Up there it’s just crossing the street, here: Jaywalking. There, visiting a friend; here they call it Trespassing. Job-hunting? Sorry, Suspicious Activity. Window shopping? Loitering. Fundraising? Aggressive panhandling.
And while I get busted for public intoxication, up in the hills they say, “I was just getting some air.”

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Author: Street Sheet Editor

The STREET SHEET is the oldest continuously published street news paper in the United States. Organizationally, it is the public education and outreach tool of the Coalition on Homelessness. Every month, the STREET SHEET reaches 32,000 readers through over 200 homeless or low-income vendors. Our vendors are charged nothing for the papers they receive, and keep all money they earn through STREET SHEET distribution.

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