The Raleigh Police Department’s mass roundup of panhandlers in the vicinity of Moore Square in advance of the Artsplosure festival was shameful (May 16 news story). Although 13 individuals were arrested for petty crimes such as soliciting for alms or possession of drug paraphernalia, it is clear that their actual offense was being poor and therefore unsightly.
You reported that most of these folks were being held in lieu of receiving $500 bail, which they probably could not afford. Those arrested endured a few nights in jail so that visitors to Artsplosure could shop for crafty knickknacks without having to see people trapped in desperate poverty. The homeless who were lucky enough only to be harassed and not arrested by the police have received the message that they’d better keep themselves invisible during events that draw a lot of visitors to downtown Raleigh.
This is the dark side of downtown revitalization that the privileged among us can, but should not, ignore. Criminalizing poverty will not make it go away. A just, decent and rational society would provide for the least of its citizens rather than lock them up.
Nicholas C. Woomer-Deters