Exploiting Prejudice for Profit

A city’s welcoming attitude toward strangers, travelers and the poor might have its costs. But so does constantly cycling vulnerable people through the courts and jails. I’d rather give a dollar to a stranger than play any role in yet another unconstitutional law.

by Carol Denney

Exploiting prejudice for profit should not be a business model. The Arizona prison industry’s role in drafting SB 1070, the law requiring police to imprison people who can’t prove legal citizenship, has strong parallels in the Bay Area.

The prison industry stood to profit directly from building new prisons for the detention of men, women, and even children who were caught without documentation. Their draft language surfaced essentially unchanged at the legislative level, despite the conflict of interest.

San Francisco’s “sit/lie” legislation, which scapegoats sidewalk-sitters and homeless people, implies that sidewalk-sitters inhibit profits, and that business would thrive without the post-beat, post-hippie, post-punk generation of itinerant travelers sitting in commercial zones. Just as in Arizona, the legislation came straight from the business interests which stand to profit, at least in theory, from the ordinance.

But Berkeley’s similar measures in 1994, only partially trimmed by the courts for unconstitutionality, didn’t cause a business boom. Berkeley’s current election rhetoric continues to blame the least powerful, most vulnerable people in town for the fact that business is down, and some candidates argue for even more restrictive measures.

Well-connected business interests get a big slice of any politician’s time, but taxpayers who enjoy meeting travelers on the street, who feel enriched by their music, their stories, their creative spirit, need a place at the table where costly, potentially unconstitutional legislation is passed around like peanuts.

A city’s welcoming attitude toward strangers, travelers and the poor might have its costs. But so does constantly cycling vulnerable people through the courts and jails. I’d rather give a dollar to a stranger than play any role in yet another unconstitutional law.

A Life Consecrated to Compassion and Justice

On the bleak streets of the Tenderloin, a sister took a stand against inhumanity. Her solidarity was inspired by the beatitudes and consecrated to the poor.

The Invisible Natural Cathedral of People’s Park

Builders, please go away. Allow the beauty of an Invisible Natural Cathedral to remain, a living shrine of open space that gives refuge to all people.

Street Spirit Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin

This atrocity was happening in a very wealthy city. It was happening right under our noses. It was very visible. And there was not the united voice of the faith community speaking out. That was the spark of Religious Witness. From that moment, I knew what I had to do.

Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin, Part Two

“What’s forming in my mind is Jesus in the temple when he became angry at the unjust and very exclusive systems of society. That is the very reason that there are the poor and the marginalized. It is not enough just to provide food, clothing and housing.”

‘Such Is the Magic and Spirit of People’s Park’

The mayor has no understanding of the awful defeat the loss of People’s Park would be. No comprehension of the cost in lives and the sacrifices people have made for the Park’s ideals. So many still find it a refuge in a country needing a political and spiritual overhaul.

I Remember Who I Am

“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

By and by, I calm down. I meditate. I pray. It is a beautiful day. The sun is setting. I weave my way toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me. I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.