Protesters Opposing Homeless Ordinance Block Off Fremont Street

Fremont Street in Downtown Las VegasOn Monday evening, which fell on MLK Day, nearly 100 protestors came together on Fremont Street to make a bold appeal to city leaders that they want the homeless ordinance, scheduled to take full effect in February, overturned.

The city of Las Vegas ordinance will make it illegal for the homeless to sleep on public streets and sidewalks, if there are shelter beds available. Those in violation of the new rule could face a fine, jail time, or both.

City Council’s Hopes for the Homeless Ordinance

The Las Vegas City Council approved the camping ban back in November. While the leaders admitted it was flawed at the time, they believed it was a necessary step towards finding some kind of solution to the city’s homeless problems. Their hope is that the ordinance will drive homeless people to the shelters where they can seek help and force them to find a more sustainable living solution.

Protesters have a vastly different opinion. One protester, Katie Krikorian, said this of the City Council’s mindset toward alleviating the problem:

                “It shows how far removed from real society the City Council is if they think imprisoning people, or fining them, is helping them.

I do not have a simple answer to homelessness. No one else has come up with it, and I’m not going to either. But, definitely not fining and imprisoning them and making it harder for them to get a job or get on a lease.

Drop the penalties. If they’re not jailing people and they’re not fining people, and they’re sending officers around to give information about shelters, that’s absolutely fine.”

The Protestors Firm Stance

Local Minister Stretch Sanders helped effectively organize the protest through his presence on Twitter, and he says it won’t be the last:

                “We’re going to keep doing these types of actions until we get the ordinance overturned,” he said. “Let’s meet. Let’s negotiate. Let’s end the camping ban.”

Sanders’ hope is that the city will go back to the drawing board and find a better solution.

The protest remained peaceful, until tensions rose at the end. Some protesters blocked off the street, even after they were given a ten-minute warming by police to vacate. Officers detained and arrested about a dozen protesters who failed to listen to the warning.

The most popular chant of the night, that protesters marched and gave in unison, was “Housing not handcuffs!” Protesters also set up sleeping bags and sat in tents with the words “Poverty is not a crime” tagged over it.

One of the protesters, Robert Majors, had this to say about the stress the law is causing the Las Vegas homeless community:

              “I’m willing to do what it takes to make a stand against the laws that are making it harder for homeless people to survive,” he said. “We could do something creative, and not create a law that just hurts people.”

Majors was one of the protesters who ended up getting arrested that evening.