by Jack Mayne It was a noisy and unusual Monday night (Feb. 23), as the Burien’s City Council heard loud arguments and heated discussions over a piece of legislation opponents say makes homelessness a crime in the city. The monthly Council study session was dominated by the so-called ‘trespass’ ordinance. There were sometimes loud shouts, and the chaotic goings-on were chronicled by wide news coverage from at least four TV stations. Prior to the meeting, the 80-100 protestors – who marched from near Burger King to City Hall – were active and noisy, and once in the council chambers there were some arguments. In one case a local business owner who favors keeping the ordinance got into a yelling match with protesters. “If you’re not a Burien resident then you have no right to be here,” said Darla Green, Burien resident and owner of Skin Perfect. This was met with “how many here are from Burien?” and many raised hands and a strong response – here’s a video of the frantic scene as shot by Scott Schaefer: [youtube][/youtube] Repeal these laws Homeless activists, local residents and business operators got a minute each to tell the Council if they thought the twin ordinances involved, Ordinance 606 approved last December (download PDF here), and the January-passed modification, Ordinance 621 (download PDF here), should be repealed. Gabriella Duncan, who lives in the Skyway area and who, according to press reports, was homeless “until recently,” spoke first. She was representing a number of people “who are hungry, angry, lonely and tired,” and said she was reading a “demand letter.” Duncan said she was “experiencing homelessness as a white, privileged person.” She apologized for “an incident with a lady in the back” because it is “difficult sometimes when I see these things.” This incident, also before the Council convened its monthly non-voting study session, involved Duncan and another woman verbally sparring over the homelessness problem. “I would like to stand up for my friends here,” gesturing to the group of men and women behind her. “This ordinance is absolutely, appallingly ridiculous,” she said as she was interrupted by Mayor Lucy Krakoviak to remind her she had only one minute for her comments. “One minute? I thought I had five,” she said with the mayor responding that she did not. She listed the history in Burien of the ordinance at issue, as several of the group behind her – some wearing shower caps –simulated brushing their teeth, which has been an issue when homeless people had done this in public or in public lavatories; here’s a video: [youtube][/youtube] Dehumanizing The ordinance, Duncan said, “violates the U.S. Constitution and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.” “Ordinance 606 was passed specifically for the sole purpose of dehumanizing and criminalizing human beings who have nowhere else to go,” Duncan said. “The legislation is clearly written in a manner that allows discretionary enforcement based on vague terms, such as unreasonably ‘disruptive’ or ‘boisterous,’ ‘bodily hygiene’ or ‘scents that is unreasonably offensive to others’ and so on. “The Burien Police already have an ugly reputation for harassing the homeless and even cutting up tents and sleeping bags with knives in the middle of the night. It is clear who these laws are meant to affect and further displace and they are among the most vulnerable members of society.” Duncan said the homeless have rights “just like anyone in Burien and do not deserve to be harassed into leaving this community.” “If the city of Burien elected officials truly believe that everyone has the right to access public facilities, as you have stated, you will repeal this unreasonably offensive ordinance,” Duncan said. “The City of Burien needs to deal with homelessness responsibly, instead of trying to force people to leave.” B-k_V0HUEAAIx-eProvide services Duncan said the city should be providing housing, human services and “we shall not stand for this gross assault on human dignity” adding her group demanded the ordinances be repealed “immediately, or further action will be taken.” She did not specify the action and because the Council was in unofficial study session and not in a regular meeting, it took no action on the issue. The group of demonstrators surrounding Duncan then began chanting anti-homeless slogans such as “shame on you” and shouting about a further demonstration to be held outside a few minutes later. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, who has often been the sole and vocal opponent of the two “trespass” ordinances, left the session briefly to thank the protestors for coming to the Council session; here’s a video: [youtube][/youtube] Disabled homeless mother Kristina Sawyckyj-Moreland, “a disabled, homeless veteran” who said she and her “several, several small children” have been living in their car for the past four months, unable to find housing because area apartments do not have wheelchair access. Moreland said she chose to live in Burien because her church is there and because she has gotten help from Transform Burien, a Christian-based service organization. She told the Council she was fearful because her autistic son sometimes uses vulgar language and “does not smell appropriate” which could cause trouble “or we could get arrested.” ‘People who elect you’ Darla Green told the Council she “represents the quiet majority, people who elect you” and that she favors the retention of the ordinance. “This is not about being homeless, this is about criminal behavior and behavior such as shooting up in our bathrooms,” gesturing to the nearby lobby bathrooms in the City Hall and library. “I won’t bring my kids here anymore.” She said people don’t have the right to do drugs in public or to beg on street corners, “that is illegal.” “If someone has the ability to sit on street corners for eight hours and hold a cardboard sign, then they can do yard work, they can do dishes, they can work for a living,” Green said. Fay Sennet, Burien, said the city should make laws about drug addicts, not about smell, “smell does not harm people,” adding people can walk away if they do not like someone’s smell. The Council in January passed an updated ordinance that eliminated “smelling bad” from the actions that could cause a person to be trespassed. Law ‘badly written’ Breanne Schuster, a policy intern for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said “no city should adopt laws which, in practice, would make it against the law to be homeless and the Burien ordinance is “badly written” because it gives employees “nearly complete discretion to decide what type of conduct to prohibit. This is a recipe for discriminatory and arbitrary enforcement … and government employees are left to decide who can and cannot use a public place and for what purpose.” She said the ordinance does not give any guide to what kind of behavior is allowed in a public space. “Yelling in a library is disruptive, but yelling or screaming in a park is a different matter,” she said. Schuster said homeless people should have the same protections as others and that the city already has rules against disruptive conduct. VIDEOS & TWEETS: Below are some relevant videos and Tweets from Monday night’s meeting: