Monday, December 22, 2008

Protest Gentrification, Stop the Anti-Panhandling Ordinance 285-53

The following is a post from the Northampton, MA-based group Poverty is Not a Crime.

Poverty Is Not a Crime
Time and Place
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
4:15pm - 6:00pm
exact congregation location TBD

The Anti-Panhandling Ordinance Is Just the Beginning!
Stop the Business Improvement District!
End Rascist and Classist Gentrification!
Community Resources, Now!
True Economic Development: For People, Not Profit!

Ordinance 285-53 would restrict “aggressive solicitation” and ban solicitation in much of downtown Northampton through severe restrictions on zone. Originally directed only against panhandling, the word "panhandling" was replaced with "solicitation" in a plastic response to one of our demonstrations to make it seem less classist. Anyone who violates this ordinance will face a fine ranging from $50-$300. Since most panhandlers are obviously unable to pay these fines, they will face incarceration, which entails jail time and future exclusion from shelter opportunities and social programs.

This ordinance is part of a larger program by city officials and select business owners (most are on our side) to gentrify Northampton. Gentrification is the process of whitening and making the area "more upscale" by violently displacing the poor into slums, ghettos, and jails. The reason they want to do this is to make the area look "cleaner" and bring in more tourists. This involves of forcibly removing panhandlers (we know the police isn't after the Salvation Army) from public spaces through the use of force--such as the threat of incarceration or forced treatment this ordinance suggests. Another agent of this gentrification is the proposed Business Improvement District (BID) that outlines this ordinance in its program of twisted 'economic development." The BID also seeks to increase police patrols and hire "city ambassadors"--which exist many other cities across the US as a team of off-duty cops who help tourists get directions while "cleansing" the street of anyone whose race or class isn't quite right. It should also be noted that two of the members of the Downtown Steering Committee that came up with and pushes the BID--Suzanne Beck and Dan Yocuzzo--are the two biggest proponents of the ordinance. It should also be noted that 3 out of the 4 people who spoke in favor the ordinance at the last City Council meeting are also members of the Downtown Steering Committee.

the Business Improvement District Plan:

Rascism: "the potential customers of the BID are...mostly white" - page 22, under the section "Target Customers"
Classism & business control of gov't: "the City of Northampton will participate in the BID as a member...includ[ing] participation in panhandling intervention efforts and ordinances" - page 9

Another agent of gentrification is the "All Roads Lead Home" plan to "end homelessness" that Mayor Higgins, as well as other area mayors, signed onto. This program approaches ending homelessness entirely from the perspective of profit, and featured only one homeless person on its forming committee.

"All Roads Lead Home":

On page 26, this plan talks about "host towns" for low income housing to raise property values...meaning that the housing these city governments are building are not based on where the homeless actually are and what helps them, but instead based on moving them out of town. Seeing as the motivation and direction of this proposal is making money, this housing will most likely be slums and ghettos.

City Council does not have the authority to pass this ordinance or the BID! It is not their choice. The people must unite, and declare our demands: stop the anti-panhandling ordinance, stop the BID, and community resources (adequate food, shelter for human beings not profit, and social services) NOW!

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