At 2pm tomorrow, Sunday, July 28, concerned citizens of Durham will conduct a silent march around the Durham County Jail in support of a man who has been locked up for begging. We are not coming to yell in protest. We are coming to pray in public because we lament this harsh reality when an alternative could already be in place.
I wrote last month to celebrate this city where, though a bad law was passed, hundreds of people came out to express their concern, several volunteered to help revise the law, and a revision was co-presented by one person who had initially supported the law and myself, who had opposed it. I can’t imagine a better picture of what democracy should look like. We have worked together to become the city we all want to be.
But the revisions got stuck in committee, where some who we had tried to include in the process all along said they needed more time to consider. We tried to stress that many who’ve been cited for violation don’t have time. They face court dates before council meets again. The proposal of the revision committee is simple:
1) decriminalize solicitations by allowing them at a “public street/roadway corner or access ramp.”
2) coordinate law enforcement, district court, and service agencies to help people in need deal with their problems (rather than treating people like problems).
Good people have done good work to create a good solution. But this weekend, another man is in jail for begging.
So we are asking those who are concerned to come out again and demonstrate the urgency of Durham’s need for this revision. If you are able, please join us at 2pm in front of the Durham County Jail tomorrow.
You can also call the City Manager’s office to express your support for the revisions, (919) 560-4222. Or call or write to your City Council member, whose contact info you can find here: http://durhamnc.gov/ich/cc/Pages/Home.aspx.