No Sit-Lie Ban in Fort Collins

A brief history of Sit/Lie Ban proposals in Fort Collins

The City of Fort Collins considered a sit/lie ban in 2015, calling it the “Shared Public Spaces Ordinance,” but listened to the concerns of FCHC and other community members, opting instead to fund a street outreach program (Outreach Fort Collins). FCHC’s statement on the 2015 Sit/Lie Ban is available here.

In 2017, the Sit/Lie Ban idea returned with a vengeance. Fort Collins’ City Manager’s office proposed the “Appropriate Use of Shared Public Space” ordinance. The proposed ordinance would have made it a crime to sit, kneel, or lie down throughout large portions of downtown; to have “too many” personal belongings; and even to sit on a bench downtown for longer than one hour.

The ACLU of Colorado called this proposed ordinance “one of the most outrageous, cruel and absurd examples that we have seen yet of a proposed ordinance clearly targeting unhoused persons.” We agreed. FCHC’s statement regarding the 2017 Sit/Lie Ban is available here.

Hundreds of people contacted City Council, expressing outrage at this proposal. FCHC organized protests, demonstrations, sit ins, a letter-writing campaign, and stood up with our allies in numerous city council sessions. In March 2017, City Council eliminated almost all of the problematic portions of the “Appropriate Use of Shared Public Spaces” ordinance: a significant victory for human rights in Fort Collins. At that time, City Council also directed staff to re-write the existing obstruction ordinance to make it “more enforceable.

In August, 2017, despite continued resistance, City Council adopted a revised version of the Obstruction Ordinance. Among other things, this ordinance makes it illegal to sit, kneel, or lie down within 20 feet of the entrance to a business, whether or not a person’s passage is actually being obstructed. Further information about the Obstruction Ordinance is available here.

We Must Continue to Oppose Any Sit/Lie Ban

Downtown is for all of us. We should not be a community that excludes certain people, or certain populations, from equal access to public spaces.

Sit-lie bans are used in a discriminatory manner, used to drive homeless people out of business/downtown areas and further into the margins.

Laws like this make people feel unwelcome, unwanted, and stigmatized.

If enforced without discrimination, a sit/lie ban would see elderly people, sick people, people with disabilities, nursing moms, parents with small children, multigenerational families, and more facing a radical rise in tickets for excessive sitting. Do we really want to pass a law that we know will be enforced in a discriminatory manner?

Fort Collins recently passed a smoking ban in the same area that is targeted by sit/lie proposals. In its first year, 37 out of 43 smoking tickets issued were to people who identify as homeless. This is an example of the way laws like this are used to target people experiencing homelessness.

A criminal record creates barriers to employment, housing, and services.
Even with Special Agency Court, dealing with a ticket costs considerable personal resources.

Laws like this give police extraordinarily broad discretionary powers, effectively allowing them to decide who is welcome (and who is not welcome) in public spaces.

Sit/Lie bans create a new class of criminal behavior – the behavior of existing in public spaces as a person who carries many personal belongings or requires a place to sit or lie. But this behavior causes no harm, and should not be illegal.

Sit-lie bans are not effective at reducing crime, but are effective at increasing the burden on the most marginalized members of our community.

We all suffer from governments that waste resources and refuse to develop real solutions to community issues, but the people whose very existence is criminalized suffer the most.

Sit/Lie Ban proposals are damaging to long-term efforts to find real solutions, and exclude marginalized people from community conversations.

Data-driven Research Does Not Support Sit/Lie Bans

Does Sit-lie work, Berkeley Cooter et al. 2012

No right to rest T. Robinson 2017

City_Hall_Fellows_Site_Lie_Full_Report

Associated articles and reporting

Citizens return to City Council to protest sit-lie ban (The Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 7, 2017)

ACLU to Fort Collins: Sit-Lie Proposal Outrageous, Cruel, and Absurd (www.aclu.org, February 16, 2017)

ACLU calls Fort Collins sit-lie proposal outrageous (The Coloradoan, February 16, 2017)

Fort Collins community members discuss sit-lie ban (The Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 16, 2017)

Fort Collins protests proposed sit-lie ban by sitting in snow (The Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 24, 2017)

Letter: Fort Collins ‘sit-lie ban’ not compassionate (letter from Jennifer Reisch, The Coloradoan, February 28, 2017)

Fort Collins divided over controversial sit-lie ban (The Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 28, 2017)

Fort Collins to Consider Sit and Lie Ban for Downtown (KNGU News, March 7, 2017)

Fort Collins City Council votes to amend proposed sit-lie ban (The Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 8, 2017

Fort Collins puts final touches on sit-lie rules (The Coloradoan, March 21, 2017)

City Council passes amended sit-lie ban (The Rocky Mountain Collegian, March 21, 2017)