Petition Closed

In February 2010, California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal introduced into the state legislature A.B. 2706. The bill sought to expand the an earlier civil rights act to grant the right of the homeless to be free from violence based on their inability to afford or maintain a home.

Lowenthal, commenting on the bill, wrote, "The perpetrators may perceive the homeless as easy defenseless targets. They may see the homeless as second-class citizens, unworthy of respect or mercy. These criminals may prey on the homeless because they know the likelihood of suffering legal consequences from their actions is not as high as it would be if they assaulted another member of the community." She cited studies of recent increases in violence against the homeless.

On September 8, 2010 at 2:30 in the afternoon it was passed on to the Governor's desk, where it sat for 21 days. Oblivious to the studies and motives cited by Lowenthal, Governor Schwazenager finally wrote, "it is unclear whether the homeless are targeted for violence because they are homeless ... Furthermore, poverty is not a suspect classification." Negating the view of the appropriations committee members who gave their approval, he wrote that the inclusion of the homeless in the legal protections of the freedom from targeted violence "could result in legal challenges and increased court costs."

On September 29, Governor Shwarzenegger vetoed A.B. 2706.

This petition is to make him reconsider, and to pass A.B. 2706, to protect homeless citizens from violence.

Photo credit: Myrrien

Letter to
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
In 1976 the Ralph Civil Rights Act was established and named after Civil Rights activist Ralph David Abernathy in California. The bill grants any resident of the state the freedom from violence or intimidation based on certain personal characterstics including race, sex, color or political affiliation.

Abernathy organized in 1955 with his close friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the Montgomery Bus Boycott and co-founded the American Civil Rights Movement.

After King's death, Abernathy expanded his struggle, fighting for poor Blacks, Latinos, White Americans and Native Americans, leading the Poor People's Campaign in DC. He strove to raise our moral awareness of the needs of our "most oppressed and poverty-stricken citizens."

In February 2010 California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal introduced into the state legislature A.B. 2706. The bill sought to expand the Ralph act to grant the right of the homeless to be free from violence based on their inability to afford or maintain a home. Lowenthal, commenting on the bill, wrote, "The perpetrators may perceive the homeless as easy defenseless targets. They may see the homeless as second-class citizens, unworthy of respect or mercy. These criminals may prey on the homeless because they know the likelihood of suffering legal consequences from their actions is not as high as it would be if they assaulted another member of the community." She cited studies of recent increases in violence against the homeless.

The bill made its way through the appropriate committees--the Appropriations committee finding it a "minor and absorbable workload increase"--before landing on your desk on September 8, 2010, at 2:30 p.m., where it sat for 21 days.

We feel you did not take seriously the justness and the urgency, in the face of rising incidences of violence against the homeless, of this bill.

We feel you were wrong in overlooking the studies and motives cited by Lowenthal when you wrote "it is unclear whether the homeless are targeted for violence because they are homeless . . . Furthermore, poverty is not a suspect classification."

We feel you wrong in dismissing the Appropriations Committee's approval when you wrote that the inclusion of the homeless in the legal protections of the freedom from targeted violence "could result in legal challenges and increased court costs."

We feel that the inclusion of the homelessness in the legal protections of the Ralph Civil Rights Act is just, necessary and entirely in line with the intentions of the original act. Further, we think the passage of A.B. 2701 is entirely necessary to fully honor Ralph David Abernathy.

It has been said that Abernathy's father, a gentle man, told his son often and early, "if you see a good fight, get in it and fight to win it." We will fight to win.