Commentary by Nathaniel Hamm
The House of Blues is giving me the blues. I am a Homeless Grapevine vendor. I sell this paper to earn a living. I am writing this because I have faced intimidation by the House of Blues for trying to sell my paper on the public sidewalks near their business.
I have been arrested twice in front of their property for selling the newspaper. The first time, I was arrested for “disorderly conduct” for questioning an officer when he threatened me with arrest if I didn’t leave House of Blues “property.” The officer who arrested me then told me that if he caught me walking anywhere near House of Blues, he would arrest me again. The second time, I was arrested for “panhandling” on House of Blues “property.” Each time I was arrested, I had the newspapers and my badge on me, and both were displayed.
The problem is that House of Blues is claiming they own the sidewalks around their business, but I know that the sidewalks are public property. The Editor of the Grapevine, Brian Davis, told me that the City has informed the House of Blues that the sidewalks are public property, and that I am allowed to sell the paper there.
House of Blues was also supposed to tell all of their employees this, so that I wouldn't be harassed again. But, after that happened, I went back about two weeks later to sell my papers there. The off-duty officer who works at House of Blues told me again that I cannot sell my papers anywhere near East 4th and Euclid, or on the corner of East 4th and Prospect. He still claimed that all of these places are House of Blues' property. So, I told them that City Hall said that House of Blues does not own the sidewalks, and if they arrest me again, that I may have the right to sue them for harassment.
I don’t want to harm anyone, I don’t want to cause trouble with the House of Blues. It seems to me that none of their customers are bothered by me, but the managers and security there keep trying to keep me away. All I want to do is have the right to sell my papers on the public sidewalks without fear of harassment and arrest.
Copyright Homeless Grapevine, Cleveland Ohio Issue 81 June-July 2007