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As L.A. Unified schools re-openend Monday, L.A. Councilman Joe Buscaino pushed to ban homeless encampments near schools.

With homeless advocates protesting around him, Buscaino attempted to announce his plans for the “sidewalk loitering” ordinance that will take effect September 3.

“I do not plan to stop at just schools,” Buscaino said. “I plan to designate such ‘anti-camping’ zones around other sites like beaches and parks.”

The protesters held signs reading “housekeys not handcuffs,” which they also chanted directly beside Buscaino, often louder than the microphone’s volume.

In the middle of Buscaino’s speech, his communications director Branimir Kvartuc grabbed a woman’s sign which led to some pushing yelling near the podium. Both Buscaino and the protesters continued peacefully.

“This is evil. Pure and simple,” Homeless advocate Theo Henderson said of Buscaino’s resolution. “As a person with lived experience of being unhoused and knowing unhoused families, this will put many unhoused in the shadows.”

The ordinance that was signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti on July 29 prohibits loitering on sidewalks or any area that would obstruct pedestrian traffic, such as a bridge overpass or tunnel.

“No person shall sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or other public way,” the ordinance reads, which protesters feel puts the homeless population in Los Angeles in a position to be criminalized.

“Despite powerful testimony from unhoused activists and an outpouring of support outside City Hall, 13 out of 15 city councilmembers let us down,” advocate for the unhoused, Kenneth Mejia said after the L.A. City Council passed the ordinance. “They chose to disregard the trauma and suffering that criminalization will bear on the most vulnerable.”

After Buscaino’s announcement, fellow councilmember Mike Bonin continued to question the ordinance, as he did when he voted against it.

“I am going to continue to ask: where can people go? Where can people sleep?” Bonin said over Twitter. “There is a way to make sure there are no encampments on our streets: housing and services.”

 

LA Weekly