American city makes it illegal to sit on kerb
Published 04/08/2014 | 02:30
His face riven with lines forged by years on the streets, Gil reaches into the top pocket of his shirt and fishes out a wedge of grimy papers. Eventually he finds what he is looking for, a yellow slip.
In his hands is a police citation written a few weeks ago when an officer found him sitting on the kerb with his feet touching the road. 'Feet in Roadway Disturbing Traffic', it reads.
This is Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Gil's ticket - he gives his first name only - could be Exhibit A in what civil rights activists say is a creeping campaign by this and many other US cities to drive the homeless out of their midst by a combination of police harassment and new ordinances that make being homeless a criminal offence.
So far this year, it has passed two such laws, one making it illegal to urinate in public and another serving notice that any belongings left unattended on public property can be confiscated.
More laws are pending, including one that would make it hard for charities to serve meals to the homeless in public spaces.
Arnold Abbott, a 90-year-old former police chief and director of Love Thy Neighbour, an organisation that has been feeding the homeless here for over 20 years, said: "It's very close to ethnic cleansing. But they are not going to succeed."