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Liberal Justices Challenge Oregon City’s Homelessness Ban as SCOTUS Considers Key Case

HeadlineApr 23, 2024

The conservative-ruled U.S. Supreme Court appeared to side with an Oregon city’s crackdown on unhoused people in a key case that could have devastating implications nationwide. The case centers around the small city of Grants Pass, Oregon, which has banned people from sleeping with a blanket or pillow on any public land, despite not having public shelters. Those who violate the ban can face hundreds of dollars in fines. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan highlighted the absurdity of the city’s ban.

Justice Elena Kagan: “Well, sleeping is” —

Theane Evangelis: “Regulations are very” —

Justice Elena Kagan: — “a biological necessity. It’s sort of like breathing. I mean, you could say breathing is conduct, too, but, presumably, you would not think that it’s OK to criminalize breathing in public.”

Fellow liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor also challenged the Grants Pass attorney, arguing the city does not arrest babies or stargazers who bring blankets to public parks.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “Where do we put them, if every city, every village, every town lacks compassion” —

Theane Evangelis: “We” —

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: — “and passes a law identical to this? Where are they supposed to sleep? Are they supposed to kill themselves, not sleeping?”

Outside the Supreme Court, hundreds of housing justice activists gathered to demonstrate. Among those addressing the crowd were Bishop William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Bishop William Barber II: “Laws that make it a crime to be poor are unjust. Laws that would penalize homeless folk for sleeping in public parks is unjust, excessive and cruel and unusual punishment, and it has no place in America.”

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