Lawsuit demands Caltrans stop seizing property in homeless sweeps

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The San Francisco Chronicle By Sarah Ravani

Stoves. Tents. Bedding. Clothing. A Mother’s Day gift.

People cited those items as examples of what Caltrans has confiscated and thrown away during sweeps of homeless encampments under freeways in the East Bay.

Now, those who lost property during encampment raids are fighting back.

Numerous Bay Area civil rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday asking for a permanent statewide injunction against Caltrans for confiscating and destroying people’s property during sweeps of homeless encampments.

The lawsuit calls for punitive damages for a number of people who experienced sweeps in the last two years and lost a significant amount of their property in Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville.

“The state and federal constitutions protect all of us, whether we live in a mansion or a tent, from seizures and destruction of our property by our government,” said Michael Risher, the senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, adding that Caltrans is violating its own policies by throwing away people’s personal property.

The complaint, filed by the ACLU of Northern California, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, East Bay Community Law Center and the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, also alleges that Caltrans workers also pry people’s property out of their hands before trashing it.

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