A United States Marine Corps veteran cited in July by Alameda Police for sleeping in his van is fighting the $480 ticket, and organizing a march in Oakland to raise awareness of the criminalization of homelessness on the day of his hearing.
Barbara Thomas, of Alameda, a long-time criminal defense attorney working in the Alameda County courts who is representing Aaron Colyer, asked for a hearing date of October 10th, to coincide with World Homeless Day.
Colyer was cited in late July by Alameda police, who approached him when he was in his van with his dog, which was parked after 10:00 p.m. in a park along the Alameda-Oakland estuary not far from the Main Street ferry terminal.
Officers cited Colyer under Alameda Municipal Code, section 8-25.1 "Sleeping/Living in Vehicle."
Colyer said that it was ironic that he, a veteran, was cited 500 yards away from the former Naval Air Station Alameda.
He videotaped the exchange with officers and posted it to YouTube; he says that he was ticketed for being homeless, and that American society has criminalized homelessness. Colyer has since found accommodations through a local veterans support non-profit agency.
"We have requested evidence of other citations issued by the Alameda Police Department pursuant to this section, to prove that the ordinance is currently being discriminatorily enforced against only homeless veterans of the United States military," Thomas said. "No one who has every purchased a Happy Meal after 10:00 pm at McDonalds and eaten it while parked in an RV or motorhome on the street, has been ticketed under the law.
"Nor has anyone who fell asleep in an RV or motorhome, or stopped to repair such on a city street, without notifying the police department, apparently ever been ticketed. On behalf of Mr. Colyer, we are asking the City to rescind this discriminatory ordinance and set aside Mr. Colyer’s ticket and focus on the causes of homeless rather then punish those already homeless due to lack of funds, by issuing a $480 citation for doing exactly what the court has already struck down as a denial of due process as guaranteed by both the United States and California Constitutions. Shame on the Alameda Police Department and the City of Alameda!"
Colyer and his attorney plan to organize a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland at 8:00 a.m. on the date of his hearing, and then march to the Wiley W Manuel Court House, roughly 12 blocks away.
He points out that, for example, the state of Utah has adopted a 'housing first' approach to homelessness - providing homes - rather than citations.