Urgent Action Alert! Stop the Criminalization and Displacement of DC Residents

Dear DCTC Friends and Supporters, via our allies at DC Jobs with Justice, we have an important request.

Please take action today to keep the DC Council from criminalizing transgender people, day laborers, youth, sex workers, and the homeless!

Tell the DC Council to withdraw the “nuisance provision” that will allow private citizens to go after people they think are “public nuisances” in DC court.

Under the Neighborhood and Victims Rights Amendment Act (Bill 18-595), introduced by Jim Graham and Jack Evans this Spring, any private citizen or community group would be able to file a lawsuit or obtain an injunction against someone they think constitutes a “public nuisance” – a concept so broadly defined it could cover many lawful activities, such as hanging out on a corner with friends or waiting for work in a park or parking lot. There are already laws on the books in DC prohibiting loitering – this proposal will only put the law in the hands of vigilante groups who seek to harass community members.

This is a clear and blatant violation of the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to assemble. This provision is especially troubling given its vague language that opens the door to profiling on the basis of real or perceived race, class, gender identity or sexual orientation, and could disproportionately be used against transgender people, day laborers, young people, sex workers and the homeless. Yet another law designed to criminalize, marginalize and displace working people in the District.

What can you do?

1. Email or all Councilmember Jim Graham and the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary (sample letter and contact info below)

2. Join DCTC and many others at the hearing, Monday, April 19th at 11:00am at the DC City Council, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

3. Testify at the hearing against the nuisance provision. To testify send an email to htseu@dccouncil.us or call  (202) 724-8038

For more information contact rcastel@dclabor.org or call 202-974-8281.
________________________________________

To:
Jim Graham, jgraham@dccouncil.us
Jack Evans, jackevans@dccouncil.us
Phil Mendelson, pmendelson@dccouncil.us
Yvette Alexander, yalexander@dccouncil.us
Muriel Bowser, mbowser@dccouncil.us
Mary Cheh, mcheh@dccouncil.us

Subject: Oppose New Nuisance Law in Bill 18-595

Dear Councilmember,

As a supporter of the DC Trans Coalition and a constituent, I am writing to you because I’m very concerned about Bill B18-595, recently introduced by Jim Graham and Jack Evans. A provision in this bill will allow private citizens and community organizations to go after people who they think are “public nuisances” in D.C. court. I think this is a very bad plan to address the safety of our communities. This provision not only has the strong potential to be unconstitutional and opens the door for profiling on the basis of real or perceived race, class, gender identity or sexual orientation, but it also won’t work to make us safer. I would like to see you and the council put more attention and money towards alternatives to increased policing and incarceration; for example, funding quality recreation centers, schools, and jobs.

A few reasons why you should remove the nuisance provisions of the Bill:

1.      The definition of “community-based organizations” in the proposed law opens the door for vigilante groups to target certain DC residents, including already vulnerable populations such as transgender people, youth, the homeless, sex workers and day laborers.

2.      The definition of “public space” would allow someone to file a lawsuit against someone for an activity that takes place in a yard or on stoops and porches-spaces that are assumed private property.

3.      The definitions in this proposed law, including what is a public nuisance and what is a public space is so broad that it opens the door to racial profiling.

4.      This proposed law creates a backdoor way to criminalize vulnerable populations and those otherwise engaged in legal activities, since it includes fines and jail time for those who violate a public nuisance civil court order against them.

5.      There are already laws prohibiting loitering and other public nuisances.  We don’t need to give every person on the street the power to criminalize their neighbors’ behavior.  We should let the police do their jobs.

6.      This proposed law would clog the courts with the frivolous lawsuits of neighbors who are annoyed with each other.  DC should not be the nation’s lawsuit capitol.

7.      This proposed law targets people who have nowhere else to go. People wouldn’t congregate on the street if there were adequate recreation centers and shelters.

Thank you for your attention. I hope that when this bill comes before the Committee on Public Safety, you will vote against the nuisance provisions, and take seriously these suggestions to look at alternatives.

Thank you,

Name
DC Trans Coalition Supporter
Constituent of Ward # _____
Full address
Email phone

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