Freedom’s Changing Definition

With the decision by the United States Supreme Court not to hear our appeal of the Grapevine licensing case we asked Homeless Grapevine vendors their opinions about freedom. This decision comes at a time when despite not having a directive from the city regarding vending and licenses, the police took it upon themselves to issue four tickets to our vendors. This did not stop until the City Prosecutor asked the police to stop ticketing while city officials had time to develop a policy for issuing licenses to Homeless Grapevine vendors.

            We wanted to know if this changes the vendor’s impression of this country or the concept of free speech. We asked: In light of the recent Supreme Court decision about the newspaper, what is the state of freedom in this country or what does freedom mean to you?

Stanley:

            You could have opportunities to exercise your ideas. This is supposed to be a land of opportunities to go after your goals. Hell, no, I am not free, when the police can do anything they want. If I were really free, then before they went into my check (for taxes) they would ask me. They tell us to shut up just because they have a badge or are an elected official. If you refuse they can make your life miserable.

Beatrice:

            No (this is not a free country.) You should be able to write or speak your mind and do what you want to do. In this country someone is always going to have something to say about what you say. I can go anywhere that I want to. As a homeless woman, I have a lot more freedom than the homeless man.

Kim:

            No (this is not a free country,) because you cannot do anything you please. If it was a free country then you wouldn’t work full time for such a low wage. Just like with this paper the Mayor doesn’t want us to sell it and so he wins.

Mirko:

            Yes, I feel that I do live in a free country. It’s the fascists that don’t want a free country. They take away our free speech and freedom of the press. They take away our streets and our free enterprise. They are taking away our freedom of speech that our fathers and grandfathers and relatives fought for. All because of NIMBYISM. They are trying to stifle our freedom of speech if we let them. There are a lot of renegade police that are trying to take away our rights.

Angelo:

            I think that we are going to see free speech come under question more and more. Especially as more and more newspapers come under corporate control. I think that our first amendment rights are unclear in the mind of our legislature.

Buzzy:

            We are supposed to have freedom of speech and press so we should be able to sell our wares without going through all the courts and all that other stuff especially since vendors in other cities don’t have to get a license or anything to sell their papers. I think this is a biased move on the part of Mayor White.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published 1998 Issue 24