Center Attorneys joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, and other concerned citizens on the intersection of Jones Ferry and Davie road, where Town Code Section 5-20 makes it illegal to stand after 11:00 am.
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"This Gathering Is Illegal" Press Conference and Rally Against Carrboro's Anti-Loitering Ordinance
Chris Brook, SCSJ
Community organizers and day laborers gathered on the morning before a Carrboro Town Council meeting to demand that the ordinance be rescinded. Chris Brook, Staff Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, presented the "Carrboro Community Leader Letter for Repeal of the Anti-Loitering Ordinance." The letter states: "This ordinance violates the civil and human rights of any persons who would otherwise lawfully be present at the intersection. As the North Carolina Court of Appeals recently ruled while striking down an even narrower ordinance in Winston-Salem, "mere presence in a public place cannot constitute a crime." For this reason alone the ordinance should be immediately repealed." After the press conference, the signatories delivered the letter to Town Hall. Read the full letter.
The sign on the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie Road.
Raphael Gallegos, Associate Director of the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, said that by repealing this ordinance,"our community will send a message that we are interested in these people's well-being. it is important that we become a guiding light and have a positive approach to the most vulnerable. Mr. Gallegos also interpreted each speaker's message into Spanish.
Two day laborers also spoke about their perspectives on the ordinance. Angel, who often looks for employment on the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie, said that looking for employment at this intersection is the only way many can earn a living. Both men said that police officers who arrive on the corner after 11:00 make the job seekers feel threatened and intimidated.
Rev. Robert Campbell, NAACP
Reverend Robert Campbell, President of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP also called for a repeal, stating, "This is a racist and unjust law. This law enforces poverty. Let us bring justice into the city." UNC Law Student Meridith Rose also provided her perspective as a Carrboro resident, stating that the ordinance was incompatible with the welcoming Carrboro she knew.
Center Attorney Elizabeth Haddix addressed the crowd in English and Spanish, calling the ordinance a violation of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. Haddix said, "As others have already discussed, this ordinance violates the First Amendment. But it also has a overt and intentional racially discriminatory impact. The ordinance clearly targets the brown and black men who regularly meet here. That the ordinance language is racially neutral is no defense to its discriminatory impacts or its endorsement of negative racial stereotypes."
Center Attorney Elizabeth Haddix, Rev. Robert Campbell, UNC Law Student Meredith Rose, and Mr. Dave Dear attend the rally.
Haddix told the press conference attendees that they were all violating the statute. "Don’t worry though," she said. "In the paper this morning the Mayor recognized the conflict between his law and the First Amendment, and said the town would be unlikely to enforce the law, noting that our gathering here this morning 'is among the most constitutionally protected forms of speech.'" Haddix noted that the selective enforcement of the statute was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, and noted that "if all of us white people leave here and all the brown and black people stay here, I can guarantee you that the police cars are going to come and pick everybody off the curb."
Watch the rest of Haddix's comments:
Signatories and supporters of the repeal, including Center Managing Attorney and former Alderman Mark Dorosin, attended the Board of Alderman meeting on the evening following the Press Conference. Carrboro activist Steve Dear called for the Mayor and Board to take an immediate vote to repeal the ordinance. A motion to repeal the ordinance was made and quickly seconded, but the motion was defeated 3-4.
Read news coverage about the press conference:
Posted by Taiyyaba A. Qureshi on Tue. October 25, 2011 4:00 PM
Community Inclusion, First Amendment, Immigrants' Rights