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CITY OF FRESNO CRIMINALIZES POVERTY

by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] attbi.com)
Fresno Criminalizes Poverty
Police attack homeless in the downtown area
dave_1.jpg
CITY OF FRESNO CRIMINALIZES POVERTY
By Mike Rhodes

The City of Fresno has a “campaign” to make the poor and homeless go away. This campaign includes increased harassment of the poor and homeless downtown, a TV advertising campaign asking people not to give money to the poor, the relocation of services for homeless people to a location South of downtown, and an ordinance that will make panhandling illegal.

The campaign went into high gear last month when the Mayor and Chief of Police promoted and the City Council introduced an ordinance prohibiting the poor and homeless from asking for money. The ordinance is not intended to stop middle class groups from asking the public for money, standing in the middle of street medians, or yelling at passing cars. It will just affect the poor.

The harrassment in downtown Fresno has gotten so bad that the homeless are being threatened with death if they don’t move on. Dave Ritter, who is homeless and living downtown, has had several encounters with the police and rent a cops. He told me that he was dumpster diving at the Radisson at about midnight when several security guards told him to leave. He told the guards that he would like to take the food he found and they said no. As he was leaving, Dave cursed at them. The security guards chased and pepper sprayed him. Dave ran to the other side of the street where they caught and hand cuffed him. Dave says that one of the guards went to the end of the street as a lookout while the other one beat him. Dave told me that the guard told him that if he ever caught him there again he would take him out to his farm in Mendota, tie him with a rope to his truck, and drive him all over his property. The security guards then called the Fresno Police and had Dave arrested. Dave says that the FPD wanted a picture of Dave on Radisson property. Dave refused to walk over to the Radisson so he was dragged onto the property where pictures were taken.

Is this an isolated case? I don’t think so. If you talk to the homeless around downtown Fresno you will hear a consistent story of abuse, harrassment, and disrespect. Not only from security guards like in the story above, but by the Fresno City Police themselves. I witnessed an incident in which a police officer badgered and taunted Mr. Ritter. Bicycle Officer Mike Smith was circling Dave on his bicycle. The officer was saying (numerous times) "Get a job Dave!" Mr. Ritter tried to ignore him and attempted to explain to the officer that he "is not causing any problems." The Officer became more aggressive calling Mr. Ritter a "worthless piece of shit" and "good for nothing."

I was standing less than 10 feet away from the officer and Ritter. Mr. Ritter appeared to be trying to get away but he could not evade the officer on a bike. The officer called him a "human cockroach", got off of his bike and got right into Mr. Ritter’s face. It appeared the officer was trying to provoke Mr. Ritter.
I reported this incident to the Fresno Police Internal Affairs department using their procedure for making a citizens complaint three months ago. The Police Department did not acknowledge receipt of this complaint and to this day has not responded to the complaint. When I called Sargent Marty True in Internal Affairs about a month after the complaint was filed he admitted that they had the complaint and were investigating. I have not been contacted since and as far as I know the culture and procedures within the FPD that led to that incident have not changed.

So what is this all about? Why are the police and City of Fresno now criminalizing and attacking the poor and homeless, particularly in downtown Fresno? To get the answer, you need to follow the money.

Who will benefit if the poor and homeless are threatened, harassed, and made to leave downtown Fresno? The people who stand to make money in this sordid affair are those engaged in the revitalization project in downtown Fresno. They are the owners of the buildings who are looking to double or triple their money in the speculative market. These are also the folks who make generous contributions to local politicians! If this plan succeeds many local small businesses will be displaced. These businesses will be replaced by Starbucks, The Gap, and other trendy shops setting up a “theme park” environment in the downtown core. Homeless people, the poor, and many small businesses will be forced out of the area and will not participate in the advantages of the revitalization in downtown Fresno. All of the citizens of Fresno will pay for this development, the police will enforce the draconian laws against the poor and homeless to make the plot work for the wealthy investors, and all of the citizens of Fresno will lose a little of their soul and compassion if we allow this to happen.

Will we allow the rich and powerful to trample on the rights of the poor so a few investors and multinational corporations can make millions? Stay tuned... Better yet, join one of the groups who are fighting for dignity and respect/social and economic justice. You will find the names of groups working in the Fresno area for Peace and Social Justice at: http://www.fresnoalliance.com/home/community.htm
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Comments (Hide Comments)
by jebus
fuck when are you lefties gonna realize letterwriting and complaints dont mean shit. arm the homeless, trash downrown and have an orgy on a pile of bodies of dead pigs then maybe the fuckers will realize whats up
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] attbi.com)
councilmap_large.gif
YES, while the strategy proposed by “Jebus” has been enormously successful in the past and in other parts of this country, we are trying something different here in Fresno. We are trying to get an INDEPENDENT POLICE AUDITOR (IPA) that would hold the police accountable for their actions. We are encouraging folks to contact their City Council representative and demand that they support the Central California Criminal Justice Committee proposal for an IPA. You can contact your City Council member with the info below.

FRESNO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS

To contact any of the Council members, call (559) 498-1560

Tom Boyajian
Councilman District 1
Fresno City Hall
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721-3600
District1 [at] ci.fresno.ca.us

Brian Calhoun
Councilman District 2
Fresno City Hall
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721-3600
District2 [at] ci.fresno.ca.us

Dan Ronquillo
Councilman District 3
Fresno City Hall
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721-3600
District3 [at] ci.fresno.ca.us

Brad Castillo
Councilman District 4
Fresno City Hall
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721-3600
District4 [at] ci.fresno.ca.us

Sal Quintero
Councilman District 5
Fresno City Hall
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721-3600
District5 [at] ci.fresno.ca.us

Jerry Duncan
Councilman District 6
Fresno City Hall
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721-3600
District6 [at] ci.fresno.ca.us

Henry Perea
Councilman District 7
Fresno City Hall
2600 Fresno Street
Fresno, CA 93721-3600
District7 [at] ci.fresno.ca.us
by Mojo Jojo
If they want Dave to go to work so much, why do they keep bringing in the foreigners to steal the jobs? There are many people who have been unemployed for a year or two who's only crime is that they are white male Americans. I have a BS degree and have been out of work for a year. My brother has been out of work for two years. On the few occassions I have gotten an interview, I see Indians, Pakistanis and Arabs. It's not like we don't work. As a matter of fact, on one job I worked 3 days and 2 nights, non-stop, to make an arbitrary deadline by an incompetent general manager who never made a decision with the data I gave him. These companies want cheap complacent employees who won't blow the whistle on wrongdoers. I have blown the whistle two times - once cutting my company's costs by $18,000,000/year. The guy who helped me was rewarded with a check for $50. I got a kick in the ass and snide remarks from the VP's. This country is going down the tubes because of BAD MANAGEMENT, not people like Dave. Every person I know who is working despises their jobs, have lost all motivation to work because of stupid, incompetent management, and die a little more every day. BAD MANAGEMENT creates people like Dumpster Diver Dave.
by anon
The problem is not "foreigners taking our jobs" or bad management. The problem is that people like Alan Greenspan deliberately manipulate the money supply to keep inflation down and unemployment up. After all, if unemployment were too low, people might start asking for raises, and we can't have that, can we?

The capitalists wish to insure high profits, and one way to do this is keep some people unemployed so that all working people feel insecure and don't ask for more money, more vacation, shorter hours, etc.
by LSL
What did you do to help this "homeless" man? Did you buy him a meal? Did you give him any money? Did you bring him back to your home and tell him he could stay until he found a job and could support himself? Did you buy him a week at the Radisson Hotel complete with meals so he could be off the street for at least a short while? Or did you just snap his picture, complain to FPD, do a little follow-up, and decided to write this to make you feel better about yourself?
by anon
I kept this anonymous because I would have probably gotten a bunch of hate mail for my views, but I say the FPD is doing a good thing. I have lived in quite a few cities across the country with large homelessness problems. The question is always, what to do? You can either do one of three things: ignore the homeless, support the homeless or prosecute the homeless.

If you ignore the homeless, you let them panhandle and sleep where they wish. This causes serious blight issues because you see dirty people lying everywhere and asking you for money. You smell urine and feces in the sidewalks because they have no where else to go. Not a solution. This is what was done previously in downtown Fresno. This is why downtown is the desolate wasteland that it is. No one wants to go there.

If you support the homeless, you build shelters, pay to clothe, feed and provide medical care. All of the basic needs are provided for, which in turn makes the homeless problem grow because it eliminates the incentive for many people to work. You spend tax payers dollars (and a lot of them) to subsidise the homeless, money which could be better spent.

If you prosecute the homeless, you get the mess cleaned up. People will be encouraged to do better for themselves. People will be encouraged to use services (which already exist) to get them back on their feet. In a city like Fresno, where the cost of housing is low, you can rent an apartment working part time at minimum wage -- the tyoe of jobs that require no skill and are plentiful.

I realize that all homeless people are not so by choice. There are some with mental problems, illnesses and so fourth. Those are the people that should get the greatest public assistance as they truly can not provide for themselves.

It makes me angry when I am panhandled when I am at an ATM, or walking to my car or stopped at an intersection. Especially when it is being done by able bodied people who could be WORKING instead of begging.
by anon
I kept this anonymous because I would have probably gotten a bunch of hate mail for my views, but I say the FPD is doing a good thing. I have lived in quite a few cities across the country with large homelessness problems. The question is always, what to do? You can either do one of three things: ignore the homeless, support the homeless or prosecute the homeless.

If you ignore the homeless, you let them panhandle and sleep where they wish. This causes serious blight issues because you see dirty people lying everywhere and asking you for money. You smell urine and feces in the sidewalks because they have no where else to go. Not a solution. This is what was done previously in downtown Fresno. This is why downtown is the desolate wasteland that it is. No one wants to go there.

If you support the homeless, you build shelters, pay to clothe, feed and provide medical care. All of the basic needs are provided for, which in turn makes the homeless problem grow because it eliminates the incentive for many people to work. You spend tax payers dollars (and a lot of them) to subsidise the homeless, money which could be better spent.

If you prosecute the homeless, you get the mess cleaned up. People will be encouraged to do better for themselves. People will be encouraged to use services (which already exist) to get them back on their feet. In a city like Fresno, where the cost of housing is low, you can rent an apartment working part time at minimum wage -- the tyoe of jobs that require no skill and are plentiful.

I realize that all homeless people are not so by choice. There are some with mental problems, illnesses and so fourth. Those are the people that should get the greatest public assistance as they truly can not provide for themselves.

It makes me angry when I am panhandled when I am at an ATM, or walking to my car or stopped at an intersection. Especially when it is being done by able bodied people who could be WORKING instead of begging.
by Good4Fresno
>>> The harrassment in downtown Fresno has gotten so bad that the homeless are being threatened with death if they don’t move on. <<<

What about the endless harassment BY the homeless constantly hounding people for money?
by homed
yes, your UN rights are being violated by those vicious homeless people! Someone should just eliminate them! They aren't like us and we don't like that! And we're fine with all the harrassing phone calls from credit card companies and politicos at election time - but people who are homeless??? They've got some NERVE asking us for money!! How dare they!
by thesetwo
"The security guards chased and pepper sprayed him. Dave ran to the other side of the street where they caught and hand cuffed him. Dave says that one of the guards went to the end of the street as a lookout while the other one beat him."

"It makes me angry when I am panhandled when I am at an ATM, or walking to my car or stopped at an intersection. Especially when it is being done by able bodied people who could be WORKING instead of begging."

Beating, or begging. Which one is harrassment?
by Mike Rhodes
The issue is DIGNITY AND RESPECT. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect by the police. If we sanction the police to abuse the homeless, harass people because they are poor, and provoke incidents so they can arrest you then we are heading down a very slippery slope. One of the costs I will gladly pay for living in a CIVIL SOCIETY is protecting human rights for everyone.
by homedthankfully
"They aren't like us and we don't like that! And we're fine with all the harrassing phone calls from credit card companies and politicos at election time - but people who are homeless???"

Who says we tolerate these phone calls? Many states such as Connecticut have strict laws allowing people to opt out of these phone calls. Give me a chance to opt out of being panhandled.

And my beef isn't with the true homeless - the deranged or elderly or whatever - its the huge number of healthy looking younger people asking for 'spare change' (I guess the change I would just throw away when I got home) like its owed them.

by cyclone
better build higher walls, buy bigger guns because monopoly capitalism is banging the war drums. Raid on Tent city Toronto is exactly what is happening in Fresno. Class warfare is imperialist warfare.Be outraged at your manipulation.
§?
by ?
--yes, your UN rights ...-

The UN is handing out rights now?

--Beating, or begging. Which one is harrassment?--

Both.
by a3m
On TV and Radio they gush about the nice developers who privative the costs, save the cities from maintenance...like it was a nice thing.

In New York they have already got busted for acting like city space is private. They get to spill over the property lines as a thanks for making things be pretty. Then they go to work pretending AS IF THEY OWNED the commons they have infringed on. Courts have been against them

In Seattle the MS and other $$, Paul Allen etcetc are wise to the game. And STILL SMARTING because we did not fund The Commons for hem to privately control access to.

Its getting AS BAD AS PRISON TURF. Privitize Privitize Privitize!!! That way its not under the COMMON LAW. That way its under UCC (uniform commercial code)

Customers welcome.

All others get lost.

This man was acosted by a Private Police force. Technically illegal under Posse Comitatus...but private police (paramilitaries) have a long history in America. The very image of retired officers, not at all the swat edge, is the Pinkerton rent a guard. Pinkerton was the goon squad that was used against the I.W.W. so very long ago. Today we have Burns and especially prestigious Wackenhunt, international para and esp.

On interlocking fronts we have Prison Corp America etcetcetc..

You play with the dots and do the penciling...



by Thess
"The capitalists wish to insure high profits, and one way to do this is keep some people unemployed so that all working people feel insecure and don't ask for more money, more vacation, shorter hours, etc."

If true, why is it that unemployment is inversely proportional to the overall economy? According to this logic, the Great Depression was the greatist time for capitalists. Everybody would work for cheap, people were poor so those businesses could exploit them and...

whoops, I forgot that we are a consumer driven economy. Competition and consumer's dictate prices. Businesses can't charge more than what consumers are willing to pay. The more money consumers have, the bigger profits businesses make.

I think you confuse inflation with economic growth.
by ron tuason (picap3 [at] mail2dreamer.com)
good4fresno: did you see any fault in the logic of your argument? since when does harassment from the homeless deserve to be acknowledged with death threats, or worse, to have a lunatic make good on such a threat? what your basically saying is that: those that willingly choose to be a part of a greed-oriented, income-based, societal caste system, have the law enforcement-backed right to pronounce death on those that INCONVENIENCE them? when did you get elevated to godhood? or do you believe that affluence entitles you to bearing delusions of godhood, simply because you now have all the trinkets you can possibly ever possess, are now bored to tears in your middle to late years in life, have an impending sense of your life slipping away in the forseeable future, have found a religion of your choice whereupon the cleric of said religion informed you that, due to all your wonderful contributions to them, your feelings of guilt over raping the land as well mentally and emotionally raping others on your climb up "the ladder of success " entitles you to be considered saved and perfect in the eyes of the-one--above? did you actually buy into that and are your feelings assuaged by this idiocy? obviously, your egoism has, in short, overloaded your ass, mind, mouth, and that empty space in your chest where a heart used to beat.
by Father Luke
I was sleeping on the overpass above the
Fresno Rescue Mission about a week ago.

Sleeping outside you get to be a light sleeper. I heard
footsteps and I opened my eyes.

I saw six to eight big guys walking over the bridge. I saw
that they were holding clubs. They saw me the same time I
saw them.

The sound of people running has never been so terrifying to
me. They ran to where I was sleeping. Then the beating began.

When it was all over, there were broken bottles, and broken
sticks all around me. My hands, back, arms and my head were
bleeding.

The bottles had broken over my head. The sticks were broken
over my back, hands and arms.

When I went to the cops, the Cop gave me hassle.

In the dark, his hands on his hips, above his gun belt,
He started yelling at me asking why I was giving him
"attitude".

I just asked the cop if I had to report the crime.

Smiling he said no.

I dropped the report and rode away from that Cop
as fast as I could on my bicycle.

by Da
Funny. You are an interesting person. The veil is still pulled over your eyes. Why don't we all become homeless? Why don't we all stop contributing to our sick capitalist society? You think you are happy with your house and your car and your shit, but are you really? Do you feel wonderful? I bet you think you do. You must realize that you are have money and you have a nice car and nice home at the expense of others. Who do you think made your clothing? Someone making $0.14/hour. That doesn't make you feel bad?

These people are homeless for some many reasons that you wouldn't even understand. But maybe some of them want to be that way. So they aren't contributing to this god awful society like you! WORK BUY CONSUME DIE! :)
by Fresnan
I was looking for pictures of Fresno and lo and behold here is Dave, one of the downtown 'regulars' who would hang out at the 76 gas station right across the street from where this incident happened. I can tell you that I had countless 'conversations' with Dave and so have the clerks and customers at that 76 station (and elsewhere). There were an incredible number of complaints against this particular individual, as well as his girlfriend, who were frequently intoxicated (or otherwise under the influence) and could be found throughout the day at 76 and elsewhere throughout downtown either 1- fighing each other (both shouting matches and physically) or 2- harrassing the customers of various businesses. The clerks and owner of that gas station eventually quit bothering to call the police because of fears of retaliation as well as the fact that the next day, he'd be out again and right back there. I am in no way justifying the treatment he received by the officer, but I believe it also had a great deal to do with plain old frustration in trying to deal with Dave. May I also add that Dave here also had a tendency to exaggerate things a bit and may have had a lawsuit in mind when he told this story.
by goprnazis
If you prosecute the homeless they develop criminal records and it makes it more difficult for them to rent a home or get a job. the problem is the majority of California property owners are racist nazis who would rather hire Mexican and other poor immigrants for poverty wages who are also complacent and wont protest or ask for a raise then pay minimum wage to a down and out homeless person. Having been homeless myself in the past I can attest to this. I tried getting a job at a local Albertsons and the manager instead when he found out I was homeless he took me aside and lectured me about how homeless people harass his customers for money on the median and that they were a nuisance. I pointed out that I have never done anything of the sort and that I simply wanted to apply for a job to get honest money. He said no. He said that he had no intention of hiring me. This is the mentalilty of the vast majority of California businessmen and employers. And we wonder why there is a homeless problem.

I propose better enforcement of discrimination laws, quotas for big business and affirmative action should be expanded to includ the homeless.
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