Homeless people who distribute the Homeless Grapevine have received a great deal of attention from the Cleveland Police in the past year. The local media picked up on the injustice over the summer. To this we owe thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who, it seems, does nothing unaccompanied by a press release. The ACLU has defended Homeless Grapevine vendors several times.
Recently, a person was ticketed for vending without a license. Not long after, another vendor was handcuffed, driven out of the Flats where he was distributing this newspaper, and “dumped” or dropped off against his will near a West Side technical school. In November of 1993, a vendor was arrested and jailed for disorderly conduct, an offence that, if proven guilty should only warrant a fine.
These police actions attempt to inhibit the distribution of our paper, and rid downtown Cleveland of homeless people. Conversations with homeless persons reveal that our vendors are not the only ones affected by police “dumping”, but simply the people with which we have the most frequent contact. The attempts to inhibit the Grapevine failed. The distribution of this paper has increased from about 1,600 per month to over 6,000 per month, and has helped homelessness remain a visible issue for the community.
When the Coalition decided to organize this street newspaper project, it heavily considered the fact that newspapers should be excluded from vending policies.
The chapter of the City of Cleveland code of regulations pertaining to vending license states:
Section 675.01 (b) Scope of Chapter
The provisions of this chapter shall not apply…to sales by charitable organizations in conjunction with solicitations for charity.
Section 675.04 Street Sales
Nothing herein shall be construed to prohibit the distribution of non-commercial handbills, cards, leaflets or other literature on the sidewalks.
No one would arrest a paper boy shouting “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” Nor should they arrest homeless people doing essentially the same thing. In fact, police have indicated each time in court that they were not initiating their actions, but responding to a citizen complaint.
Perhaps an old public perception of homeless people is what drives this police action. Indeed many people believe that most homeless people are criminals, and should be suspect. There needs to be a stronger opposition to this negative perception. So we ask that you take action, by cutting out the lower corner of this newspaper (cover page), and mailing it in.
Protect the Freedom of Speech
HELP HOMELESS PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES
The Homeless Grapevine is a newspaper. It provides an alternative to panhandling, and gives people down on their luck a chance to help themselves.
It is in the power of your committee to rule that the people who distribute the Homeless Grapevine do not need vending licenses.
Help the Homeless. Take this action, now.
Your address (if applicable)____________________
Street Vendors Advisory Committee Members
c/o City of Cleveland
Copyright by the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio Issue # 7 September-December 1994