Homeless advocates march in Burien to protest new trespass ordinance

BURIEN, Wash. -- Homeless advocates staged a march in Burien Friday.

Their chants were first fired at a chiropractic office owned by Burien’s mayor.

“There’s human rights abuses happening here in Burien  and we’re here to demonstrate,” said Joshua Farris, with SAFE, a homeless advocacy group.

The protesters are angry over the city’s recent trespass ordinance. They say it puts a target on the homeless.

But Burien’s city manager, Kamuron Gurol, believes the ordinance is not aimed at those living on the street.

“It has nothing to do with homelessness,” said Gurol. “ It’s all about helping to address behavior problems in public spaces, like City Hall, the library, and parks.”

Protesters on Friday were also upset about a recent proposal to require permits to panhandle.

Darla Green, owner of a local boutique, is proposing the panhandling permit to the city. She wants it to be similar to the requirements used in some cities in Texas and Florida, where panhandlers are required to present two pieces of ID and go through a criminal background check.

“I think we need to know if there’s criminals on our street corner,” said Green. “We need to know if someone has a warrant for their arrest someplace else. I think that makes our community more safe.”

Homeless advocates disagree.

“To make it so they have to jump through hoops just so they have to beg for money, you might as well be telling homeless people to drop dead,” said Farris.

Tony Siaitta is a World War II veteran who spends a lot of days panhandling in Burien. He says he couldn’t survive without the generosity of the people in the city, and he should have the right to ask for a handout.

“I think if a guy needs money, and he sits out here he should be able to do it, without getting a permit,” said Siaitta.

That’s why the homeless activists are making their voices heard. For several minutes they chanted outside Green’s business. At one point they tried to enter but police officers held the group back.

They are planning even larger protests in Burien in the future, and are threatening a class-action lawsuit if the city doesn’t repeal its trespass ordinance.