The Los Angeles City Council banned homeless encampments outside schools and daycare centers inside the city by an 11-3 vote on Tuesday. The move was met with outrage from homeless activists who told the council the policy is “death at your hands.”
The new ordinance prohibits the homeless from forming camps within 500 feet of schools or daycares. The measure is an amendment to the city’s broader restriction against sitting, sleeping, or obstructing public passage on public property inside the city.
Police are authorized to issue citations for violations of the new ordinance. However, if a person “willfully resists” or “willfully refuses to comply after being requested to do so by an authorized city employee,” they can be charged with a misdemeanor offense in L.A. City Court.
Protestors at the council meeting included groups from Street Watch L.A. and the L.A. Tenants Union. They crowded into the council meeting chamber, chanting, yelling, and holding signs in an effort to disrupt the meeting.
Council President Nury Martinez delayed the meeting and the vote due to the disruptions, which she described as “incredibly disturbing.” She said later that what took place was an unfortunate attempt to prevent the council from voting.
Martinez said that it was obvious that the protestors were intending to “shut this place down and keep us from doing the very job that we were all elected to do.”
The general theme presented by the protestors was their belief that the council was “criminalizing poverty.” One member of the crowd accused the council of advocating for homeless people to die.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell spoke during the meeting to push back on the accusation that the council was acting for the purpose of killing people. He said every member is “compassionate, deeply caring of people who are the most vulnerable among us.” He said that he refused to accept the “rhetoric that we’re monsters, that we’re murderers or anything like that.”
L.A. Community Action Network spokesperson Ruben Garcia told reporters that the city would find it impossible to enforce the new ordinance. He said there are simply too many homeless camps in the city that violate the new law.
Garcia said that the city is only “putting on a little show,” and added that because there are tents everywhere, “good luck being able to enforce the law.”
Homeless person Susan Hartnett told reporters that she could not comply with the law. She said that she cannot “count 500 feet” and doesn’t carry a tape measure. She asked, “Where do we go?”