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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Sit-lie protest draws few

Only two people actually sat at today's protest against Spokane's sit-lie ordinance, though one was in a wheelchair. The only other two protesters stood outside downtown's Spokane Regional Business Center to talk about why they believed the law targets the homeless.

The law in question, which has been in place for less than a year, makes it illegal to sit or lie downtown most hours of the day. Sitting on fixtures or planters is also illegal. 

"I think it's unfair," said Mara Spitzer, 54, who has been in a wheelchair for a few weeks due to a broken foot. "They just don't want a certain looking population downtown."

Rick Bocook, 57, a downtown fixture himself known as "Harpman Hatter," has dealt with the shifting laws downtown for years, not just as a homeless advocate, but also as a street musician.

"They say (the sit-lie ordinance) doesn't target the homeless, but it does," Bocook said.

As the protesters mingled in the shade, two police officers on bicycles rode by on the sidewalk and gave them a word of advice.

"Try to stay hydrated, guys," one cop said. 

Despite such niceties, Hans Crawford, 42, said he's seen the homeless mistreated by officers for violating the law. One particular incident, he said, involved three squad cars and a man in a wheelchair.

"They were just screaming at him," Crawford said. "I guarantee you if he was wearing a three-piece suit, they wouldn't have bothered him." 

The protests are scheduled to take place every week, but one of the organizers said they're not always attended by just four people.

"Sometimes there's just one or two of us," said Rebennah Black, 39. "Sometimes there are 20."

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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