It took the savage beating of a homeless man to reveal the terrible cost of allowing business owners to create their own private patrols on the streets of Berkeley.
The video clearly shows that the violence was initiated by the ambassadors. The wrong men had gone to jail. The report given to Berkeley police by the DBA ambassadors was dishonest — itself a fairly serious crime.
The DBA’s board is dominated by large property owners who were the primary funders of the failed anti-sitting law campaign in 2012. It takes courage to say no to the merchant association’s short-sighted effort to make homelessness and poverty invisible. Courage is in short supply in the Berkeley City Council.
The Downtown Berkeley Association and the City Council pushed the anti-homeless laws without even consulting any of the city’s commissions. The DBA requested these measures in a wholehearted attempt to transform Berkeley into one of the most repressive cities in California in targeting poor and homeless citizens.
He is not cowed, and will keep protesting the criminalization of homelessness. “What am I supposed to do? If the shelters are full and I got to sleep here, I got to sleep here. It can’t be illegal for me to sleep. It’s highly inhumane. I will fight it.”
More and more cities turn to curfews, prohibitions on begging, sleeping, or “camping” in response to the visible poverty in their public spaces, despite the fact that criminalization is “the most expensive and least effective” method of addressing homelessness. Jail costs two to three times the cost of supportive housing.