It is zero hour for the defense of the right of homeless people in Berkeley to simply be.

This Tuesday, Mayor Bates and Council members Maio, Droste, and Capitelli are proposing, for the nth time in 25 years, to add new status offenses to the docket. These new “crimes” will result in fines and jail time. While the City cannot explicitly ban poor people or homelessness, it will outlaw actions that are symptomatic of these conditions, such as owning more than two square feet of belongings and having nowhere to store them.

Do not be confused by the sugar-coating of the bill with amenities. More bathrooms and storage lockers are services that should have been instituted years ago. For the homeless, this bill means a road deeper down into poverty, a criminal record, and a bolstering of mass incarceration. For Berkeley, it means accelerating ethnic and social cleansing and the death of diversity.

The homeless are largely Black and Latino. City leaders should be ashamed of pursuing this right-wing agenda at a high tide of national consciousness about the value of Black life.

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George Lippman is Chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission.
George Lippman is Chair of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission.