Nov 032018
 

by Arnaud and Naja Girard

Rolling over while sleeping could seem innocent enough. But if you’ve laid down to sleep on a Key West sidewalk, what your hands, your face, your lips, would ultimately be rubbing against could be dirt and spit, vomit, urine, and whatever unknown plague and pestilence is crawling beneath you in the dirt.

No matter how disgusting, for Key West’s homeless people unable to sleep at the overnight shelter on Stock Island, these conditions are the only ones available to them under city laws.

In the video below 43-year-old Kara Cohen is being arrested. Her only crime is having placed a bedsheet between herself and the sidewalk. Judge Mark Wilson would later sentence her to 30 days in jail for “camping in public.”

A little background may be required before viewing the officers’ bodycam footage:

In 1988 Michael Pottinger and about 6000 of his homeless brethren, with the help of the ACLU, sued the City of Miami because of its treatment of homeless people.

A federal court ruled: “The City’s practice of arresting homeless individuals for harmless, involuntary conduct [such as sleeping and bathing] which they must perform in public is cruel and unusual in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

At the time, the City of Key West interpreted that landmark ruling as requiring the construction of a homeless shelter as a condition to continued arrest of homeless people found sleeping in public areas. The City first allowed a “tent city” to go up along South Roosevelt Boulevard’s bridle path and later built the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS) on Stock Island.

Here’s the question: When people cannot go to KOTS and must sleep in the streets, do we really want to force them to do so under the most unsanitary and dangerous conditions?

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, publishers and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.
 November 3, 2018  Posted by at 8:04 pm * Featured Story *  Add comments

  2 Responses to “Illegal Camping or Right to Exist?”

  1. I suppose the cops are doing what the City has ordered them to do, but this was not an arrest to be proud of. Do you suppose they will list it on their resume as a grand achievement of previous employment “protecting and serving” the public?
    I see the dumb grin on the one cop’s face during the arrest and think, “He’s having too much fun.” Isn’t that the difference between sociopath and psychopath? Do they have a psych evaluation before hiring Key West cops or do they just recruit school bullies? I see this job takes a special kind of “person.” I suppose promotions are coming for these two fine specimens.

  2. Dear Arnaud & Naja,

    Compelling video… Evidence ascertained by said video, mandate that this arrested woman be brought to a hospital and evaluated for her declared mental illness. If possible, and if you have the time, please investigate this further and determine if in fact she received appropriate medical attention…. Thank you…

    Arnaud & Naja, you remain on the firing line of life where the rubber meets the road. All does not seem right in the “Bastion of Humanity”, where the words “One Human Family” are so frequently and fraudulently touted.

    With Love, Blessings & Respect…

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