ACLU Settlement Victory Ends Homeless "Street Sweep" Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
February 2, 2000 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND, OH — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today announced the successful resolution of its lawsuit against the City of Cleveland aimed at stopping the police from sweeping homeless people from downtown sidewalks.

The ACLU represented four homeless men who had been targeted by Cleveland Police under the policy.

The settlement, reached late this afternoon, prohibits Cleveland Police from arresting, or threatening with arrest, homeless persons for innocent conduct, such as sitting, eating, sleeping or otherwise innocently being on public property, including city sidewalks. Unlike the Temporary Restraining Order obtained by the ACLU on December 23rd, the judgment entered today is final, permanent, and applies everywhere in the city.

“This is an unqualified victory for the homeless and for the ACLU,” said ACLU Legal Director Raymond Vasvari. “We went to court to stop a policy whereby police used the threat of arrest to sweep innocent and peaceful homeless people off the streets and out of public consciousness. In December, we succeeded in putting a temporary halt to that policy. Today, it stops for good.”

Associate Legal Director Gino Scarselli noted that the case sends an important message nationwide. “This case should serve as a warning to other cities that unconstitutional sweeps against the homeless will be challenged. The homeless may not have any special constitutional rights, but they certainly have no fewer rights than the rest of us.”

Scarselli was lead counsel on the case. The ACLU legal staff was ably supported by volunteer attorneys Victor Mezacapa and Michael Meehan.

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