Victory against Las Vegas Discrimination
Monday November 20, 2006 at 11:13 PM
An injunction is expected to be handed down against the law prohibiting the sharing of food in public parks with the underprivileged.
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In a move that can only be seen as a victory over the violent and repressive City of Las Vegas – led by Mayor Oscar Goodman and overseen by his shill Bradford Jerbic – Federal Judge Robert C. Jones is expected to hand down an injunction against a statute passed by the Las Vegas City Council which prohibits sharing food with whom a “reasonable person” could perceive as eligible for, or receiving government assistance.
During oral arguments today, Lee Rowland of the ACLU articulately and aggressively argued that the law violates the first and fourteenth amendments by limiting expressive action (sharing food with the homeless or indigent) and specifically targeting the underprivileged.
In an incompetent display, Bradford Jerbic, defending the City of Las Vegas, admitted to discriminatory and dishonest practices. Though initially claiming that the indigent are not a “suspect class,” the council for the City of Las Vegas dug themselves a hole early on, accusing “Ms. Sacco” (plaintiff Gail Sacco) of “luring” the indigent into the park with what he admitted was a “tastier meal” than what city services offer. He also accused her and the other plaintiffs of turning the park into a soup kitchen.
In addition, the city also admitted that the plaintiffs’ citation under the ordinance was due to them not having a permit and stated that the city would never grant a permit for such a use. Jerbic said that the city would ask for the intended use of the permit prior to granting it, and that permits would be given to other groups. Despite this assertion, a quick search of the official City of Las Vegas website finds Huntridge Circle Park to be “non-reservable” (see attached screenshot).
Judge Jones was quick to rebut many points of the defense, stating in response to the city’s inquiry into the intended use of permits, “I don’t think you can ask that question.”
At one point, the city tried to make a case for their discrimination on the basis that the indigent have difficulty traveling – they come to the park for food and away from government programs and get stuck, though the city failed to indicate how the indigent were initially able to make their way to the park. The argument was quickly deemed weak by the judge.
Judge Jones went on to ask the defense if they had prohibitions in place specifically targeting the problematic actions – drunkenness, clothes washing in the park, etc. – that would be universally applicable and not specifically targeted at the underprivileged.
In a spectacular flub, the city not only admitted to not targeting the specific actions of concern, but showed regret for the one specific ordinance that was in effect – closing hours for the parks. The city argued that because there was a park curfew, people leave the park and go onto private property. Left unanswered by the city, however, is just where exactly they expect people to go.
The city also admitted to ordering officers to target the indigent and look for clues to identify those who might aid them – specifically food and food preparation equipment.
Judge Jones’ preliminary decision is to issue an injunction and solicit findings and conclusions from both sides within ten days. Jones stated that he expected the injunction to solve this issue. In addition, he stated that he is inclined to prohibit a statute that limits the distribution of food, in addition to any that specifically target the indigent.
Continuing, the judge also indicated that a statute which limited the number of times food sharing could occur, or the number of people being fed could withstand scrutiny, when based on sufficient reason.
The hearing took place in the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, which earlier this year was the scene of one of the largest political actions ever in Las Vegas, the April 10 immigration solidarity action, as well as World Can’t Wait actions, among others.
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