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Opening Arguments

Begging for attention

For Indiana's favorite bleeding-heart columnist, the Indianapolis Star's Dan Carpenter, it probably doesn't get any better than this -- he gets to disparage the military, stick up for the poor, downtrodden homelesss and stick it to less-enlighted Hoosiers, all in the same column:

Welcome to the Crosshairs of America, where you're expected to welcome troops landing in your neighborhood while you're assumed to be terrorized by ragged men asking you for a quarter on a Downtown sidewalk.

The mayoral red carpet laid out to the Marine Corps to conduct war games in our inner city, coupled with the crackdown on the menace of panhandling, underscores a kind of caste mindset that has characterized local leadership since way beyond the duration of my memory.

[. . .]

Even given Mayor Greg Ballard's sentiments as a retired career Marine officer, it's remarkable, to say the least, that City Hall would seize on panhandlers as a public threat while not bothering to forewarn the public that their living space would be subjected to door-to-door assault exercises. Have the expressions "Leave them alone" and "Leave us alone," respectively, not occurred to anyone in the rarefied reaches where Super Bowl packages are put together?

What insufferable twaddle. Dan's probably rooting for the ACLU, which is going to court to accuse the city of being mean to the beggars:

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana said officers are overstepping their bounds, prompting an increase in complaints by the homeless since Ballard announced his initiative in late March. The lawsuit alleges officers told two of the men to move on even though they were soliciting lawfully; some were forced to show identification several times and wait while the officers checked their records.

"You and I are allowed to walk down the street without the government forcing us to show who we are," ACLU Legal Director Ken Falk said, adding that two of the men weren't soliciting donations.

Police can go too far. We shouldn't want a return of selectively enforced laws such as those against vagrancy, and we should be concerned about people being stopped and harassed just because they look poor. But the problem is that it's gone too far the other way. The ACLU suit seeks class-action status, which I take as a serious effort to let the bums be as annoying as they want to be.


Thu, 06/12/2008 - 11:21am

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread."
---Anatole France

Harl Delos
Thu, 06/12/2008 - 12:49pm

The ACLU suit seeks class-action status, which I take as a serious effort to let the bums be as annoying as they want to be.

If the panhandlers are soliciting lawfully, why are the cops harassing them?

Is this a part of their benefits package? "You get 3 weeks paid vacation, 14 paid holidays, life and health insurance, and, oh, yeah, if you get bored, you can make 'driving while black' stops, bust open the heads of anyone that looks hispanic, and harass anyone that looks homeless."

If the city of Indianapolis really wants to spend tax dollars to annoy people, why are they using police officers, which are about the most expensive hourly help the city can hire? Why don't they send out low-paid file clerks? Many of them are wives and mothers, and thus have a lot of experience in harassing people?

If there was a shortage of violent crime in Indianapolis, and they were trying to hunt up work to keep the officers busy, it might be different, but I suspect there are plenty of neighborhoods that would welcome someone cracking down on people violating noise ordinances, littering, or shooting other people - you know, things that are technically referred to as violations of the law.