LOS ANGELES - A U.S. District Court judge today issued a temporary restraining order to stop the Los Angeles Police Department from continuing its pattern of harassment and intimidation of homeless people in downtown's "Skid Row" area. The campaign of harassment and intimidation included:
' stopping homeless people and demanding to see identification without a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed;
' threatening to arrest homeless individuals who did not produce identification; ordering homeless individuals to move from pubic sidewalks and streets;
' arresting homeless individuals without probable cause;
' searching, seizing, and destroying the property of homeless individuals, and
' issuing citations for violations such as jaywalking or blocking a sidewalk when no such violation has occurred.
Advocates for the homeless urged civil rights attorneys to look into the matter and to protect the Constitutional rights of homeless people. Civil rights attorneys Carol Sobel, Diane Greene Gordon, Douglas Mirrell, and Dilan Esper and the ACLU of Southern California responded by filing a lawsuit, Justin v. City of Los Angeles, on November 21, 2000. Eighteen homeless individuals submitted testimony in the case about their experiences of harassment and intimidation at the hands of the LAPD.
"You don't have to have a roof over your head to enjoy the protections of the U.S. Constitution," said Carol Sobel, cooperating counsel in the case. "The court clarified that basic principle today for the City of Los Angeles and its police department, who were under the mistaken impression that being poor is a crime, and that not having a home disqualifies a person from being treated as human being and an equal in the eyes of the law. It's a shame that the city has to be forced to recognize the basic rights and humanity of homeless people."
The temporary restraining order, which was issued today in preliminary form, but which will be issued in final written form on Monday, bars the police department from continuing its pattern of harassment.
"The court finds," wrote Judge Lourdes G. Baird in the preliminary ruling, "that Plaintiffs have succeeded in showing that they will suffer irreparable injury and have no other adequate remedy at law if injunctive relief is not granted."