October 20, 2006

Civil Rights Groups File Suit Against City of Fresno to Stop Raids on Homeless People

Temporary restraining order halts destruction.

FRESNO --The City of Fresno is violating the constitutional rights of homeless people whose personal possessions are being destroyed and confiscated in ongoing raids, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal court by civil rights groups. The groups are seeking a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to stop the relentless attacks on Fresno’s homeless residents. The lawsuit was filed in Fresno’s Federal District Court.

The City has carried out numerous raids of areas where homeless people live, destroying their personal belongings, according to the complaint filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the ACLU of Northern California and the law firm of Heller Ehrman, LLP. Clothing, medication, tents and blankets, as well as irreplaceable personal possessions, such as family photographs, personal records and documents have been destroyed. The raids are carried out by Fresno’s Police and Sanitation Departments, who use bulldozers and garbage trucks to confiscate tents and shopping carts full of personal belongings, usually crushing them on the spot, often with the homeless owners watching and protesting.

"The City cannot seize and destroy someone’s property just because they are homeless," said Paul Alexander, a partner at Heller Ehrman LLP. "The Constitution does not allow it."

"These unlawful raids on the City’s poorest residents are particularly egregious given the lack of available shelter," added Oren Sellstrom of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.


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