Sarasota News Leader

11/30/2012

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OPINION FOR HOMELESS, SARASOTA IS A 'TOWN WITHOUT PITY' EDITORIAL A press conference held by the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this week is only the latest episode in a tragic tale of institutionalized disdain for the homeless in Sarasota. Emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, which were revealed by Michael Barfield, legal chairman for the local chapter, contained homeless-taunting exchanges between officers in the Sarasota Police Department. "Bum hunters" were how these officers referred to one another. nization by local foundations whose contributors objected to his efforts. Shortly after Martin's ouster, a homeless person in Gillespie Park was arrested by an SPD officer for "theft of utilities." The crime? Charging his cell phone in a public outlet in the park gazebo. The city's hostility toward the homeless is not a recent development. In 2006, the city was "recognized" as the meanest city in the nation toward the homeless by the National Coalition for the Homeless. At the time, it was a crime for anyone — including young children desiring to "camp out" in their backyards — to These revelations come on the heels of the sleep outdoors without a permit. forced resignation of Richard Martin as exThe latest crackdown gathered momentum ecutive director of the Suncoast Partnership a few months back after the mayor stated in to End Homelessness, ostensibly because of an open meeting of the City Commission that threats of a reduction in funding to the orga- she was fearful to walk about downtown be-

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