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Unconstitutional and Repressive Loitering Law Aimed at Communities of Color, Immigrant Day Laborers and Young People Fails
*For immediate release*
March 17, 2009
Unconstitutional and Repressive Loitering Law Fails
Bill Withdrawn Amidst Massive Labor, Community Opposition
PCJ Presents Opposition to Unconstitutional Gang Injunction Bill
Faced with an avalanche of opposition to the clearly unconstitutional "Hot Spot No Loitering Zone" bill, Councilmember Jim Graham has been forced to withdraw the proposal in advance of a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday, March 18.
"The withdrawal of the 'Hot Spot No Loitering Zone' bill is an important victory for civil liberties in the District of Columbia. People mobilized such wide opposition that the bill's sponsor was forced to withdraw it," stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founder and attorney with the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, who was scheduled to testify at Wednesday's hearing against the bill.
"This bill would have criminalized any gathering of two or more persons. In essence, it provided the police unfettered discretion allowing them to arrest people for no other reason then they were standing together. It would have created another avenue for abusive police attacks on communities of color, immigrant day laborers and young people."
The PCJF is the legal organization that has challenged as unconstitutional DC's unprecedented checkpoint seizure and interrogation program, first executed in the Trinidad neighborhood. That legal challenge is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The PCJF is also opposing the "Anti-Gang Civil Enforcement" measure, otherwise known as a gang-injunction and will be testifying against the bill at Wednesday's hearing. "This gang injunction measure also criminalizes lawful conduct and association, targets with vast sweeps persons who are not necessarily alleged to have engaged in any illegal actions, can result in arrest of people merely for attending school or church, and voids the most basic constitutional requirements of Due Process," stated Ms. Verheyden-Hilliard.
None of these proposed expansions of police powers provide an effective response to the problems facing D.C. residents and they are a diversion of resources from the real needs of the communities in Washington.
For more information on the Trinidad checkpoint case and other litigation by the Partnership for Civil Justice, go to http://www.justiceonline.org/.
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