ACLU concerned after pedestrian safety ordinance leads to arrest | KOB 4
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ACLU concerned after pedestrian safety ordinance leads to arrest

Kassi Nelson
December 06, 2017 06:54 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A city law passed in early November raised concerns with the American Civil Liberties Union, who believes it targets our homeless population. Peter Simonson, the executive director for the New Mexico affiliate, said an arrest of a homeless man is proof the law intends to discriminate.

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Police arrested Trinidad Arroyo Tuesday afternoon and charged him with trafficking controlled substances and possession with intent to distribute. But it’s why Arroyo was initially contacted that Simonson said raises a red flag.

"That only adds weight to our claims that it is intentionally focused on people living on the street and intended to address panhandling," Simonson said.

The pedestrian-safety ordinance makes physical interactions between pedestrians and motorists illegal near freeways and on medians. Simonson said the ordinance discriminates against vulnerable people in the community, although City Council members said it’s designed to keep motorists and pedestrians safe and is not intended to target anyone.

"They’re living day to day, hand to mouth. This is one of the ways they try to keep themselves alive and unfortunately that also invokes the response from the police department," he said.

According to the criminal complaint, officers received a call about a panhandler. The complaint said Arroyo was sleeping near the interstate downtown when an officer woke him up and said the ordinance banned him from being there.

During that contact, the officer discovered Arroyo had outstanding warrants and found the drugs. But Simonson said despite that, it’s still discrimination. He is concerned the ordinance will be used as an excuse to target our homeless population.

"I think law enforcement will continue to check out, to conduct fishing expeditions with people who are panhandling or that are more vulnerable to that kind of scrutiny because they’re living on the margins of society," he said.

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Kassi Nelson

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