Activists speak out against Dover loitering ordinance for constitutional concerns

DELAWARE – A loitering ordinance is on the table in Dover and Thursday, community leaders and members are set to discuss it.

Opponents say it would interfere with residents’ constitutional rights. The ACLU of Delaware and the Central Delaware NAACP are coming together to share their concerns.

The ACLU believes this ordinance has to be withdrawn, saying the ordinance allows law enforcement the ability to harass unhoused people and those conducting lawful protests. “We as people have the right to ask for help, and free speech, and we also have the right to protest,” says Javonne Rich, Policy and Advocacy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware.

Javonne Rich on behalf of the ACLU of Delaware says Dover’s proposed Loitering Ordinance imposes on residents’ constitutional rights. “Help mitigate, exactly that loitering of individuals in the city, pretty much sometimes don’t have anywhere to go,” says At-Large Councilman, Andre Boggerty.

Councilman Andre Boggerty believes there are pros and cons to the ordinance that still need to be sifted through. However, activists believe people will lose their right to protest. “They’re basically expanding what constitutes loitering and it can really capture just everyday behaviors it attempts to criminalize a long list of constitutionally protected actions that are associated with being in public spaces,” says Rich.

The ACLU of Delaware says this would particularly target homeless people, but they need more resources than potential fines. “This targets people who are experiencing homelessness but it can really happen to anyone, it can happen to anyone it can happen to someone standing on the Delaware State campus without first getting permission. Everyone is at risk with this ordinance…This ordinance should be withdrawn, secondly, it would be advantageous for the city of Dover to really dig deep and be creative about how to help people experiencing homelessness, but also people living with mental illness,” says Rich.

Regardless of the decision for the ordinance, Councilman Boggerty believes they’ll find a solution that works for all parties by creating a “fair, firm, and consistent policy.” “It’s a responsibility on all parts, it’s a responsibility for the business owner, the security of that establishment, and also a combination with our police department, making sure we are all working together to make sure all citizens are safe,” says the Councilman.

The ACLU would rather see the city invest in health services, employment services, and social services. The next step for the ordinance is the hearing happening on Thursday, Councilman Boggerty says it’s important to hear from the community so the council can make an informed decision.

The special meeting will be held on Thursday the 26th at 6 pm at the City of Dover Town Hall. The council will also cover the Irish Mike issue.

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