The Constitution and Homelessness

Photo Source Devin Smith | CC BY 2.0

Introduction

When the police violate the US Constitution, are they criminal? In what court can their conduct be judged illegal? For recourse against crimes against the people for violation of the Constitution, to whom can we turn?

We finally found out that it was illegal all along for the Berkeley PD to raid and disperse homeless encampments. It is a violation of the Constitution. So said the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Sept. 4, 2018. But it has been going on for years. All those former raids were illegal, and those former arrests and confiscations of property were also illegal. Now, the Court has made it official. Can this be turned into anything but a civil suit. Can past victimization be turned into anything but money?

We suspect that Berkeley city government doesn’t care. On Sept. 5, 2018, the very next day after the Ninth Circuit Court decision, the Berkeley PD raided another homeless encampment. It was the one in front of old city hall, on a street named after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who transformed an entire social ethic through civil disobedience. Berkeley City Council had passed an ordinance a couple of years back that said it was illegal to sleep on public property. That ordinance does not supersede the Constitution. The reverse is the case – has always been the case, but is now officially the case. The Ninth Circuit Court said that a city could not prevent homeless people from sleeping on public land if the…

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