The ACLU filed a federal civil rights lawsuit today against the city of Laguna Beach for its "unlawful and inhumane policy of harassing and intimidating disabled homeless people." The suit alleges that the city's prolonged arrests of its small, disabled homeless population under the guise of an anti-sleeping ordinance is "blatantly unconstitutional" and criminalizes an otherwise helpless disabled population. Erwin Chemerinsky, chair of UC Irvine's law school, is acting as co-counsel.
According to the ACLU, the city has had plenty of time to enact recommendations the city council adopted early this year to manage the homeless situation, but has failed to provide any services. "Tragically, city leaders of Laguna have rejected these recommendations of their task force in favor of harassing, intimidating and prowling Laguna's beaches and parks to arrest and threaten the city's mentally ill and physically disabled homeless people for slepping where they have no other place to sleep," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the southern California branch of the ACLU.
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The ACLU is suing on behalf of several of the 45 to 75 chronically homeless and disabled people who nightly risk being arrested if they're seen sleeping under the boardwalk, on a park bench or any other public space. City officials in Laguna Beach are planning their own press conference later today.
*Image: Gary Higgins