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Advocates still raising stink over Burien law, say it targets homeless

Homeless advocates protested a city of Burien law on Monday because they say it targets homeless. (KIRO Radio Photo/File)

Homeless advocates will protest a city of Burien law on Monday that they say targets homeless.

The ordinance – 606 – allows police to remove people from public places for disruptive behavior and is unconstitutional, advocates say.

“The ordinance really isn’t necessary,” said Doug Honig, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. “This city already had in place ample laws that can deal with disruptive and criminal behavior in public.”

An additional law targeting people in public places gives police too much discretion to target homeless, Honig said.

The law was adopted in August and revised in January, following a push-back by homeless advocates. It originally included language that would allow police to remove people from public space for offensive body odor.

Burien City Manager Kamuron Gurol told The Seattle Times the law was adopted due to concerns about people feeling intimidated in public places, including a park next to City Hall and the city’s library. The library shares space with City Hall, the Times reported.

Gurol told the Times the law’s intent was to address problematic behavior.

The call to repeal the ordinance is supported by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and Stand Against Foreclosure and Eviction (SAFE).

The amount of homeless people in Burien was not made available by the Coalition on Homelessness. There are 3,772 homeless people living “unsheltered” in King County, according to the One Night Count done by the Coalition.

“Burien Ordinance 606 violates our moral accountability,” city council member Lauren Berkowitz said in a statement provided by SAFE. ‘This law targets the most vulnerable members of our society.

“Homeless people have human rights just like everyone in Burien.”

“Shame on the Burien City Council for passing an illegal law that criminalizes and profiles homeless people through selective, targeted harassment, and enforcement based on perceived behavior and hygiene,” Berkowitz wrote.

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