by Paul Boden

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) and the USA-Canada Alliance of Inhabitants (USACAI) are calling for a day of action on April 1, 2012.  We are calling on all members and allies throughout the United States and Canada to join the struggle of reclaiming our communities and human rights.
Join us on Palm Sunday to defend the inherent dignity of all people, be they rich or poor. Community groups in Canada and across the USA are holding simultaneous days of nonviolent action to uphold the human rights of all our brothers and sisters. We are gathering to bear witness to the devastating truth that tens of thousands of people are being persecuted simply for being poor and homeless. This inhumane wave of civil rights violations is trampling on the rights of the poorest and most destitute in cities all across the United States and Canada.
It is a source of national disgrace that the wealthiest nations on earth have abandoned the poor and homeless, and have subjected them to unjust repression, rather than offering compassion and mercy. The prophetic words of Isaiah warn national leaders against the inhumanity of enacting laws that injure the poor: “Woe to the legislators of infamous laws, to those who issue tyrannical decrees, who refuse justice to the unfortunate, and cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan.” [Isaiah 10: 1-2]
Over the past year, WRAP and its West Coast grassroots members and allies have compiled and documented 668 instances of homeless people’s interactions with local police, private security guards, and the criminal justice system in eight cities. All respondents participated in the surveys for the opportunity to speak “unfiltered” to the broader community about what is really happening on our nation’s streets to poor, disabled, and homeless community members.
What we found is astonishing: 78 percent of survey respondents reported being harassed, cited, or arrested due to “quality of life” offenses such as congregating in public places, littering, or storing belongings.  This includes fulfilling an essential human need — sleeping.  A sad fact: only one in four of the respondents said they knew of a safe place to sleep at night.
Across North America, our interviews with homeless people reveal that cities across the country have adopted a “zero-tolerance” approach to punishing the poorest of the poor for what are normally non-criminal activities and minor offenses. This approach, known as “Broken Windows” policing, is the very opposite of mercy and decency, for it treats homeless human beings as unwanted throwaways to be punished and driven out of sight.

A flyer for WRAP’s day of action designed by Art Hazelwood.

We must not let “Broken Windows” policing, a harsh and oftentimes discriminatory tactic, continue. Just as we put an end to Anti-Okie laws and Jim Crow segregation, we must stop the current criminalization of people, merely because of their economic status. The criminalization of the poor as evidenced by our survey is a sobering indicator of the repression that is spreading in our cities.
Join people of conscience on April 1 to bring light to this troubling pattern or repression and to help incubate a national organizing campaign to stop the trend of criminalizing homeless and poor people.
It is time for all of us to come together in peace, and for justice, whether it be by joining in a local action in your community, or speaking about the words of warning from Proverbs 30:14. “There are those whose teeth are swords, whose teeth are knives to devour the poor from off the earth, the needy from among mortals.”
For more information about the April 1st day of action, please contact Paul Boden at WRAP.(415) 621-2533 or