By Guest Editorial, Special To The Raleigh Telegram
RALEIGH – The Raleigh Telegram publishes letters to the editor as long as they meet our criteria for publication. The Telegram recently received a letter from the Occupy Raleigh group which has criticized the City of Raleigh’s panhandling ordinances as being too severe.
Letters published in The Raleigh Telegram do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the management of the newspaper or its owners. The letter is published here in its entirety:
OCCUPY RALEIGH TARGETS THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY IN RALEIGH
The Occupy Raleigh movement met for their General Assembly on December 15 and established a working group that will target the Criminalization of Poverty in the City of Raleigh in 2013:
The City of Raleigh has a law on the books: panhandlers must register for a permit before they can beg on the street (Code Section 13-2007 and 13-2031 of the City of Raleigh Code of Ordinances).
They must register themselves with the state (making themselves vulnerable to police identification and harassment), show a photo ID (for many, an undue burden), be cleared of a criminal background check (an incivility of systematic and overlapping inequalities), or move onto another city if they cannot get the permit (a deterrence, then, that has the effect of “cleaning up” the city).
Aside from panhandling without a permit, there are other crimes on the books that panhandlers can be charged with, too, like loitering and pedestrian interference. Wake County has separate rules about panhandling; Wake permits last only a week, while Raleigh’s last a year.
In March 2011, even stricter laws went into effect for panhandlers, like restricting their presence within 100 feet of an ATM or 20 feet of any business.
Indeed, many businesses along Hillsborough St. have a sign in their window informing customers of the panhandling rules, and police representatives at a City Council committee meeting in March 2012 said that they had passed out between 400 and 500 fliers educating residents and transients about the permitting process since the stronger ordinance was enacted.
If a panhandler is arrested, s/he could face a $500 fine (see http://www.wral.com/news/news_briefs/story/9040990.)
The Occupy Raleigh General Assembly established the goals of this “Decriminalize Poverty!” campaign as:
1. Strike the panhandling law from the Code.
2. Raise awareness of the struggle of those who survive by panhandling and break the stereotype.
3. Raise awareness that politicians are targeting those who have been the victims of inequality—especially inequality created and maintained by the state (budget cuts to mental health services, etc.)—in the interest of privileging businesses and wealthier individuals.
4. Evaluate which other laws that criminalize poverty should become the target of our efforts to repeal and continue to broaden this campaign as we go forward into the year.
Occupy Raleigh is a group of concerned citizens who seek to raise awareness and demonstrate before the Capitol in support of economic justice and against corporate influence over our elections and political processes. Occupy Raleigh is a peaceful, non-violent resistance movement that aims to encourage people to participate in democracy and to use their voices to influence positive change.
This working group is open to ALL people interested in achieving the Campaign’s goals. This group will meet Tuesday evenings at 7:00pm at the Royal Mall at 3801 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC beginning January 8th. ::
Article Published: Wednesday, January 9th, 2013