Chico City Council reinstates sit-lie ordinance, opposers turn their backs after decision


Patrick Newman speaks with police officers at the Chico city council meeting Tuesday. Newman spoke at the podium in front of the city council to oppose the sit and lie ordinance that ended up passing later in the evening. This ordinance allows police officers to detain and remove homeless and transient people that are “sitting” or “lying” in front of business entry ways. Photo credit: Alex Grant

In a symbolic gesture, about half of Chico citizens attending the council meeting, Tuesday evening, turned their backs to the council as the vote to reinstate the contentious sit lie ordinance passed as the group predicted. One citizen was arrested while attempting to read out loud the 8th amendment—the one that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment—to the council.

Before the vote was cast, the floor was open to commentary from the public, 24 people requested to speak. Speakers were split nearly 50/50 in favor of, or against the ordinance.

Steve Breedlove, recently removed from his appointed position as Airport Commissioner by the council for his part in a disruption in the chambers during the Sept. 18 council meeting, was the first speaker of the night when the time for public commentary came.

“I … expect you guys to pass this. I mean none of us are naive, we figured that (out) when we first came here and spoke out against it 40 to 3, and you didn’t give a shit,” Breedlove said. He questioned what people were supposed to do, and where they were supposed to go, during the hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., the time when the ordinance would be in effect, and when local community shelters are closed.

Breedlove also spoke with The Orion after the vote, explaining his feelings further.

Likewise against the measure was Patrick Newman. Newman stated he did not plan to leave until forced to. Instead, Newman attempted to read the 8th amendment, recently cited by the 9th circuit court of appeals as making certain aspects of criminalizing people with no place to go, when no shelter is available, as unconstitutional under the cruel and unusual punishment clause.

After his allotted speaking time was over, and he continued to speak despite the mayor asking him to stop, he was placed in handcuffs and removed from the municipal center.

Newman was later released outside, but will still face charges.

Patrick Newman explains to police officers why he choose to be detained during the city council meeting to prove a point. Newman commented to The Orion after police returned to court that he hoped his actions of civic disobedience would act as a symbol of defiance to the passing of the sit and lie ordinance. Photo credit: Alex Grant

Later on, Rob Berry, of Chico First—a group that states their main goal is public safety, but often find themselves referred to as anti-homeless—spoke in favor of the ordinance.

“This current version will result in improvement of the downtown environment, as well as other commercial establishments around town, so by all means, pass it.” Berry said.

Berry also spoke to The Orion on his views after the vote.

When public commentary ended, a group of not quite half of those in attendance, either stood or otherwise faced away from the council as they deliberated before the vote.

The vote to reinstate the ordinance passed, 4-3 down party lines, much the same as the previous vote to research the reinstatement.

Josh Cozine can be reached [email protected] or @joshcozine on Twitter.

*Alex Grant also contributed three video clips to this article; Steeve Breedlove interview, Patrick Newman removed by police video and Rob Berry interview.*