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Judge Donna Ryu condemns City of San Francisco’s attacks on the homeless encampments

by Lynda Carson (newzland2 [at] gmail.com)
Protest Against Attacks On San Francisco Homeless Encampments:
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Judge Donna Ryu condemns City of San Francisco’s attacks on the homeless encampments

By Lynda Carson - December 26, 2022

Reportedly, on December 23, 2022, in her court order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu granted an emergency order in a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for criminalizing homelessness, prohibiting the City from enforcing an array of brutal policing practices violating the civil rights of unhoused persons in San Francisco.

Additionally, the Judge’s order prohibits the City from confiscating and destroying unhoused people’s survival gear and personal belongings— a horrific on-going practice that violates the City’s own policies.

Judge Donna Ryu has reportedly temporarily banned San Francisco’s cops from clearing most homeless encampments, and from citing people for sleeping in public, and from enforcing several other laws aimed at brutalizing the homeless people living on the streets while a federal lawsuit against the city moves forward in the courts.

The lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for criminalizing homelessness, was filed on 9/77/2022, against the defendants collectively known as the CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO; SAN FRANCISCO POLICE DEPARTMENT; SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS; SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF HOMELESSNESS AND SUPPORTIVE HOUSING; SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT; SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT; LONDON BREED, in her official capacity as Mayor; and SAM DODGE, in his official capacity as Director of the Healthy Streets Operation Center (HSOC).

Additionally, the plaintiffs in the case who filed the lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for criminalizing homelessness, includes the ACLU, the COALITION ON HOMELESSNESS; TORO CASTAÑO; SARAH CRONK; JOSHUA DONOHOE; MOLIQUE FRANK; DAVID MARTINEZ; TERESA SANDOVAL; NATHANIEL VAUGHN.

According to the December 23, 2022, court order of Judge Donna Ryu:

“For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction is granted as follows: I. Defendants are preliminary enjoined from enforcing or threatening to enforce, or using California Penal Code section 148(a) to enforce or threaten to enforce, the following laws and ordinances to prohibit involuntarily homeless individuals from sitting, lying, or sleeping on public property: California Penal Code section 647(e)•California Penal Code section 370•California Penal Code section 372 •San Francisco Police Code section 168•San Francisco Police Code section 169. This preliminary injunction shall remain effective as long as there are more homeless individuals in San Francisco than there are shelter beds available.II. Defendants are preliminarily enjoined from violating San Francisco’s bag and tag policy as embodied in DPW Procedure No. 16-05-08 (REV 03).”

Court Ruling Against Arresting People For Sleeping In Public

During 2018, in a court ruling the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that it is unconstitutional to cite or arrest people for sleeping in public when there is no shelter beds available for the homeless.

In a release from the Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, in part it reads;

“On December 23, 2022, just a day after the preliminary hearing in the case, a federal judge in the Northern District Court of California granted an emergency order in our lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for criminalizing homelessness. The urgently drafted, robust order prohibits the City from enforcing an array of brutal policing practices that violate the civil rights of unhoused San Franciscans. Additionally, the order stops the City from seizing and destroying unhoused people’s survival gear and personal property—an appalling practice that violates the City’s own policies.

This is an early victory for unhoused San Franciscans who are fighting to hold the City accountable for its failed response to the City’s mounting affordability crisis. The City has scapegoated unhoused people for a crisis that the City itself has created by refusing to expand affordable housing—which forces thousands of the City’s long-time residents, who are disproportionately people of color, onto the streets every year. The City uses brutal criminalization as a tool to vilify these residents, when it knows full-well it is just punishing poverty. San Francisco deserves real solutions to homelessness. Affordable housing, not criminalization, is the only real solution.

In her order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu found that the Plaintiffs would likely succeed on their claim that the City blatantly violates its own policies, which purport to require a service-first approach to homelessness. The City spends millions of dollars in tax revenue to cite, fine, and arrest unhoused people for sleeping in public, while seizing and destroying their personal property and survival gear, like medications, prosthetics, laptops, mobile phones, and blankets. Meanwhile, the City has little to offer unhoused residents in terms of shelter, services, or housing.

 
San Francisco’s half-hearted response to the Court relied on stereotypes of unhoused people. The City suggested that all unhoused people engage in drug sales, that their belongings create health hazards, and that they refuse to accept shelter when it is offered. The Court flatly rejected these allegations—which contradicted the record in this case. Additionally, the Court recognized that San Francisco has effectively closed its shelter system—even while there are hundreds of people currently on the waitlist. The ruling allows the City to enforce its health and safety laws, if they genuinely apply. The City may still clean streets of trash and ensure adequate access to sidewalks. But it cannot continue to target and punish unhoused people just because they are homeless.

The Court’s order directs the City to immediately halt these harmful incarceration-era policies that have done nothing to solve homelessness and have, in fact, made the crisis worse. In granting the order, the Court also acknowledges that the City’s cruel policies have made it harder for people to exit homelessness. This sends a clear message to the City—it cannot arrest its way out of its affordable housing crisis.”

Quotes From Plaintiff's In Lawsuit

In a quote from, Zal K. Shroff, Senior Staff Attorney, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area: Zal K. Shroff said, “San Francisco’s homelessness crisis starts and ends with the City’s refusal to build affordable housing. The Court’s order finally recognizes that San Francisco has been lying to the public about its response to the homelessness crisis for years. Taxpayers should be incensed that the City is policing poverty to cover up its political failures—spending millions to get us exactly nowhere. Today we set the record straight. San Francisco residents deserve far better than this cowardly, brutal, and misguided approach to a housing crisis of the City’s own making.”

And in quote from, John Do, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California: He said, “Tonight, as many families gather in their warm homes to observe the holiday, thousands of San Franciscans will be outside in the cold. This ruling blocks the City from punishing people for sleeping outdoors when they clearly have nowhere else to go. This ruling protects unhoused people’s constitutional right to exist, to have belongings, and to survive the best they can– a right that the City has continually violated by criminalizing universal and unavoidable consequences of being human.”

Additionally, Jennifer Freidenbach, Executive Director, Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco, said, “Finally, after years of brutality, the City is being forced to stop their illegal treatment of unhoused residents.  This holiday season, unhoused San Franciscans will not have to worry about having their medicines and survival gear illegally confiscated by the City, nor worry about being harshly displaced in the early morning hours with nowhere to sleep. We are relieved and hopeful that San Francisco will halt wasting taxpayer dollars on displacement operations and instead use that valuable funding to house our neighbors.”

Some Brutal Attacks On The Homeless and Unhoused

As a common practice with the cops and cities brutalizing the homeless and unhoused poor communities for living on the streets with no place to go, recently a federal judge issued an emergency injunction to stop sweeps of huge homeless encampments downtown Phoenix because of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Arizona.

Additionally, the ACLU of New Mexico and others sued the city of Albuquerque recently, alleging that City officials continue to destroy homeless encampments and criminalizing poor people for being homeless.

Meanwhile, recently it has been reported that homeless encampments in Los Angeles, have been cleared for the inauguration celebration of the new mayor, Karen Bass.

Reportedly, the National Park Service plans to clear out homeless encampments in Washington D.C., by late 2023, the Vallejo City Council considers prohibiting homeless encampments, 19 homeless encampments have been swept in Portlands’ Central Eastside.

Pittsburgh officials have been working to eliminate homeless encampments.

Reportedly, in California, CalTrans clears out 1,200 homeless encampments yearly.

And recently, the homeless encampments across the nation have been placed at risk from the frigid cold temperatures placing them at risk of frostbite and freezing to death in the cold outdoors without shelter.

Lynda Carson may be reached at newzland2 [at] gmail.com

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