Editor's Note: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Lauren Salter is a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. That has been corrected. The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.
Two months ago, former Mayor of Albuquerque Richard Berry passed an ordinance regulating interactions between panhandlers and motorists. On Wednesday evening, residents took to the streets in protest.
On Jan. 24, the intersection of San Mateo Boulevard SE and Central Avenue was the site of a demonstration led by Act Now to Stop War & End Racism Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union Albuquerque Chapter condemning the city’s anti-panhandling ordinance.
The ordinance, called the “Pedestrian Safety Ordinance,” restricts panhandling within Albuquerque metro areas — it was passed unanimously by City Council in early November 2017.
“Its aim is to make Albuquerque unlivable for homeless people by depriving them of an important means of survival,” ANSWER said in a press release. “Using the cops to perform the function of aggressively enforcing the ordinance in parts of the city slated for ‘redevelopment.’”
Bex Hampton, an organizer with the ANSWER coalition, said the organization believes the ordinance is an “attack on the poor” and is another way to criminalize poverty.
Participants held signs that read, “Reverse Anti-Panhandling Ordinance” and “Poverty is NOT a Crime” and followed along in chants such as, “No ART, no way. We need jobs and equal pay.”
The ordinance states that panhandling would lead to a penalty of $500 and 90 days of incarceration.
“It makes it pretty clear that the city does not care about homeless people or those who have to ask for money,” said University of New Mexico alum Jose M. Enriquez, who participated in the protest.
Critics of the ordinance make the point that this is an effort for Albuquerque to inhumanely replace the appearance of low-income citizens with clear medians.
“(City Council) says it’s for public safety to keep people off of the medians while asking for donations, yet the city of Albuquerque just completed this $135 million ART project, which put the bus stop right in the median,” Enriquez said.
The passage of the Pedestrian Safety Ordinance is a strike within the war against working, poor and homeless people, Enriquez said.
The protest’s participants included ANSWER member Lauren Salter, who is currently attending UNM. Moving from Chicago to New Mexico for school, she said she realized both cities have problems concerning homelessness, untreated mental illness and displacement.
“I would hope to see more programs that really push for housing, rehabilitation, equal and fair pay and less discrimination,” Salter said. “From a more ideological standpoint, I’d like to see more consideration for other human beings, whether or not they live in a home.”
Hampton said the only way to change a system that results in poverty, racism, sexism and war is by taking to the streets and demonstrating that people want change.
ANSWER has recently filed a joint lawsuit with the ACLU to fight this ordinance and challenge what the groups view as pro-gentrification and inhumane sanctions against the homeless community.
Rebecca Brusseau is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @r_brusseau.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.