People accuse Boise of planning to violate human rights

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - People were determined to have their voices heard during Tuesday's Boise City Council meeting. A large crowd showed up to give their opinions about the city's proposed panhandling ordinances.

Supporters and opponents passionately displayed their strong emotions toward the ordinances. City council members had to get on to the crowd several times for clapping, yelling, laughing and even booing.

One of the ordinances would combat aggressive panhandling.It would prohibit people on the street from soliciting for money through physical contact or threats.

Suzahn Ebrahimian opposes the ordinance. She says it would use laws already in place to specifically target the poor.

"We already have laws that are basically there to protect us against harassment and any type of aggressive behavior or assault," she said.

The other ordinance would prohibit sitting or lying on city sidewalks. Opponents say they don't like that, because they feel that some wouldn't get in trouble for it, while people who are homeless would.

Opponents say that in order for the ordinance not to be discriminatory, police would have to ticket everybody...even children who sit down on the sidewalk.

Supporters say the ordinances would promote tourism. Cliff Clinger spoke on behalf of the Boise Center. He says visitors should see Boise at its best.

"Panhandlers give a negative impression and perception of our city," Clinger said, "They tarnish our image and create a distraction from all that our city has to offer. They can and have made our guests and convention goers uncomfortable."

But opponents say that human rights trump Boise's image.

"Public space is a fundamental human right," said Ebrahimian, "I mean we have the right to be out with our bodies in a public space, whether we have money or we don't."

The city of Boise says no decision has been made about the next step or when the council will address the issue again.