Homeless feel proposed trespass ordinance unfairly targets them

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BRADENTON - City officials Hope a proposed trespass ordinance will help control crowds at the new Riverwalk skate park. But some say that if passed, the law wouldn't just make it illegal to trespass at the skate park, but all over the city.

"It’s basically throwing people out on the street, further out on the street, because now they have no place to go," says Bridget Mackey. She is one of the many homeless people in Bradenton worried about the proposed trespass law. "By putting that law into effect, it’s going to make people that are trying so hard for their lives desperate, and then they may end up doing things they don't want to do.”

Her concerns stem from the fact that proposed ordinance 2945 would make it illegal to trespass on public property anywhere in the city, and give officers the right to issue trespassing tickets -- as well as ban violators from a location, and in some cases, make arrests.

"If one person goes down, or one person goes to jail for sleeping in a garage, that’s just going to take them to jail and then they are going to be out here again at square one with nothing."

City leaders have repeatedly denied that the proposed law targets the homeless. But ACLU representatives say the move may cause concern, regardless of who it targets.

"When a government is preparing to trespass certain citizens but not others from public areas, it can create constitutional problems, because public spaces belong to the public not based on socioeconomic status, not based on race, not based on behavior," says ACLU attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen.

The city says the ordinance strengthens their ability to limit troublemakers who are causing issues at the skate park.

But not everyone agrees. "It's very concerning and could cause constitutional problems if police are just given unbridled discretion to arrest people for not behaving in a certain manor. And an ordinance that would permit that would go too far," says Mogensen.

In the meantime, Mackey and some of her homeless friends say they will be on guard. "The pound over here helping dogs, they got a place to stay. These people have no place to stay, and they are really trying to keep their sanity. It's going to make people that are not evil become desperate, and the last thing you want to do is make homeless people desperate," says Mackey.