Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mill Avenue Nights: Friday, October 7th 2011

Tempe police have become much more zealous about stopping people from bringing their own chairs to Mill Avenue citing a City of Tempe ordinance previously unbeknownst to Ave visitors. This policing was discovered tonight when Tempe city police officers warned Arienne, Dragon, Omni, and I when we were sitting on chairs, playing a tabletop game of 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons. (Yes, dice and all.)

The law is quite clear on the subject from Tempe City Code §§ 29-70,71 that nobody shall rest upon blankets, towels, or not permanently affixed chairs upon a Tempe public sidewalk and to do so would be a class 3 misdemeanor. Apparently, this is the case even for the region near the Post Office which is not part of the sidewalk thoroughfare and is public property.

Of course, according to the code we could have been permitted to do this on a weekday after 10 p.m. or, it being a Friday, after 1 a.m.

The officers were polite, cordial and addressed the situation. They even paused to tell one of the nearby buskers that he would not be permitted to sit in a chair and play his guitar in front of the Post Office. All of us so addressed complied with the lawful orders of the police and moved our chairs away to against the side of the PO.

Of course, we continued to play the game on the ground.

The officer in question could have done without making up lame excuses for why the code is in place (none of us disagreed and we complied immediately.) The code is not in place “for our protection as drunk people might come along and bother us,” that’s just outright wrong. The law had nothing to do with us playing a game on Mill Ave; it may have more to do with preventing people from blocking thoroughfares…

…or more likely it’s a form of legislation designed to alienate and darken the city’s benevolence towards itinerant peoples.

The City of Tempe a few years ago had an ordinance of the same type that made it illegal to sit on the ground itself. The ACLU of Arizona and others got together to fight that exceedingly obvious and stupid legislation and eventually got it overturned. The current legislation is probably an outgrowth of that law that is avoiding making the same mistake.

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