2020 Martin Luther King Jr, Day, urban Activist Minister Stretch Sanders plans to shut down Fremont Street in Las Vegas, NV. His goal; to raise awareness for the current crisis and target on homelessness in Las Vegas. And since originally sharing his plan, his goal has only amplified and increased. 

 

The Las Vegas Mayor’s office plans to criminalize homelessness. Anyone camping or living on the street could be subject to fines up to $1000, arrest, and jail time. 

 

People don’t want to support because they think the road closure will hurt businesses. However, Sanders’ goal is not to hurt businesses, and that he knows they want their patrons to be able to come in without being exposed to certain things and elements. He also agrees we need to get people off the street and give them places to go, but they need to get housing and resources.  Not jail sentences and fines. His mission – he cant be concerned about who’s going to take the hit in the process of them trying to bring forth change. 

 

Brian supports and agrees with Sanders, however, doesn’t think he’s going about it the right way. He understands Sanders’ passion and heart, but suggests asks what good it does to be arrested and go to jail; costing tax payer dollars, taking time where police could be handling other issues. Kids that are leaving school, people going to work will be in blocked traffic and affect their daily schedule and job security. 

 

Stretch:” Dr King said “One as the right to disobey an unjust law if his conscience tells him it’s unjust.” If the law states that people who are camping on public property, the street, sidewalk, etc., will be arrested if beds aren’t available, then we’re gonna go camp on that street. Intent is to break the unjust law. If something is unjust you break it. … At the end of the day, any movement, somebody has to take the hit. “

 

Brian asks how taking a stand in this way will change people’s minds. Stretch responds, “I think taking a stand will put pressure on the state.”

 

Sanders reminds us that Dr. King boycotted 381 days. Tackling this issue won’t be done in a day. This is step one. The action of protesting rather than seeing the outcome it can lead to is sidetracking us. This way, we’re being heard and bringing awareness to the people. It’s bigger than saying we need to worry about the business owners. 

 

Minister Stretch Sanders’ goal in this protest is in the 1000’s. Black people are always being told “you’re going about it the wrong way.” What’s the right way? Even slavery. Boycotting the bus. History: by going about the things the wrong way, we created the right opportunities for oppressed people. I understand it may appear to be going the wrong way, but I’m looking at the big picture. 

 

Why are we criminalizing homelessness? Implementing a fine to people who can’t afford the fine? Mayor Caroline Goodman believes tackling the homeless issue is long overdue. But, the goal should be to get people to use resources. People who are poor are being criminalized for a condition they did not ask for. 

 

Michael, a previous opponent of Mayor Caroline Goodman who was unlawfully disqualified in the election, calls in to remind us “It is a constitutional right to be anywhere in public. “ And part of the reason to start this movement against the homeless is that retailers want streets cleared of street performers and homeless. It’s about money and satisfying casinos. 

 

Another caller, Brandon, shares his story of offering people food and water, but they turn him down and say they’d rather have money for drugs or alcohol.

 

Sanders responds to the caller, “There are people who will be given help and resist it. Before we give out anything, we encourage people. Their minds are filled with wanting drugs and alcohol and we judge them. What if we address that, get them in homes, and get them in rehab. It’s to cope with something, let’s help them deal with that. But we can’t deal with the fruit, and not the root. “

 

Caller Brandon asks if we were to build free homeless shelters if it would draw homeless people from neighboring states, overwhelming the shelters and growing the issue.  Sanders encourages Brandon against this, saying idle minds is the devil’s workshop, so we have to find the solution to the mental problems.

 

Some ask here will the money come from to create these programs, and what can be done with those who have no interest in helping themselves or getting better? Target the entire population. Those who come, we deal with. Those who don’t, we help them when we’re ready. He doesn’t disagree they need assistance, he disagrees how government is going about it; y giving jail sentences and creating privatized prisons. Nevada is a wealthy state; they’re building casinos, not shelters. That’s a choice. 

 

Sanders is not making enemies. He is standing with those who are poor. And how he goes about it will hopefully lead to solution. 

Rachael Edlow

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