In late November, after months of engagement by day laborers and civil rights activists, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to repeal the town's unconstitutional anti-lingering ordinance. Purportedly adopted to target public alcohol consumption, littering and verbal harassment, the ordinance made it illegal to "stand, sit, recline, linger, or otherwise remain" in a small area of town where day laborers congregated to wait for work each day. No other part of the town was subject to this restriction.
In April, a coalition of civil rights groups (including the Center or Civil Rights, the NAACP, the ACLU, UNC Law Civil and Human Rights and Immigration Law Clinics, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the NC Justice Center), sent a letter to the town highlighting the constitutional deficiencies of the ordinance, which criminalized an individual's mere presence in a public place, as well as a range of other conduct clearly protected under the First Amendment. In addition, the letter noted that although the ordinance was facially neutral, it was clearly targeted at and had a disparate impact on the Latino community.
Day laborers wait to speak at the public hearing
For the month following an October press conference held on the corner to highlight the injustice of the ordinance, activists began eating lunch each day on the site, a clear violation of the ordinance. This direct action brought additional attention to the struggle and further demonstrated the community's commitment to seeing the law repealed
During the packed public hearing, several day laborers, many testifying through an interpreter, spoke against the ordinance, and its impact on their lives and their ability to get work. Managing Attorney Mark Dorosin said the town had taken "a blunt instrument to the Constitution," and reminded the board that all the behaviors about which they claimed to be concerned were already illegal. He also challenged the town's selective enforcement of the ordinance against Latino workers.
The board voted later that evening to repeal the ordinance. Dorosin called the decision "a great victory for the people."
Community activists gather before the public hearing
Read more background on this issue: "This Gathering is Illegal..."
Posted by Mark Dorosin on Wed. December 14, 2011 3:35 PM
Categories: Community Inclusion, First Amendment, Immigrants' Rights, Race Discrimination