This evening, city council takes up a new law called the “Drug Free Zones” but what this legislation really does is create “Rights Free Zones.”According to the legislation, these Rights Free Zones will be established arbitrarily, throughout our city by the Rochester Police Department in order to combat Rochester’s drug problem. While we can all agree that drugs are a problem in our city, it is clear that laws like this are not only unconstitutional, but also ineffective.
This is not the first time that council has ignored our constitution and passed ordinances which later the courts have overturned. I need only mention a few like:
The Administrative Search Warrants- that allowed unelected city hall officials, who were not judges, to let whoever they want search a building in order for that building to get a certificate of occupancy..
The Noise Ordinance- that allowed police to search and seize your car if the radio was too loud.
The Curfew Law- that arrested kids for being out too late.
Once again, city council is taking the easy way out with an enforcement effort that not only pointlessly harasses Rochestrians, will cost millions of dollars, and raises serious concerns about councils understanding of the First, Forth, Fifth and Fourteenth amendments.
This law violates Rochesterians right to assemble.
This law violates Rochesterians right to be secure against unreasonable, warrant-less searches.
This law violates Rochesterians right to due process.
And finally this law codifies racism.
We need to deal with the city’s drug problem, but creating a law which will target people of color and circumvent constitutional protections is not the solution. Further with all the questions of police misconduct allowing the police chief to impose martial law seems like a recipe for disaster. Particularly when we have long know that criminalization of drug problems is not a solution. The real solution is drug treatment and alleviation of the poverty and misery which leads to self medication. This plan does neither of these.