Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mill Avenue - Project S.I.T.

photo by Maxine Miller and Brianna Jones
Mill Avenue, Tempe

The City Council banned any sitting or lying down on the sidewalks, especially on Mill Avenue. The law took effect on January 17, 1999, and breaking the law resulted in a misdemeanor and a fine of $500 and or up to 30 days in a jail. Project S.I.T. included a group of students, as well as Randall Amster, that wanted to protest to eventually get rid of the law. Stephen McNamee, A U.S. District judge, gave Project S.I.T. a preliminary ruling that stopped the law being enforced until the court could choose whether the law infringes the right of assembly. For a while citizens could rest on Tempe’s sidewalks but Project S.I.T. anticipated a final decision. Randall Amster, an ASU graduate and justice studies instructor, filled a lawsuit to sue the city in order to have them get rid of the law. After a few sit-in protests, as well as several court appeals, McNamee finally got rid of the law due to the law being unconstitutional
This issue is based on the “white spatial imaginary” that is “… based on exclusivity and augmented exchange value”(Lipsitz, 2007, pp. 13). Exchange value being the central focus to gain a profit from their private owned property.  Mill Avenue is essential an area where a lot of shops are located that can potentially make a profit. The people that wouldn’t be spending money on Mill Avenue would be the ones to rest on Tempe’s walkways.  Project S.I.T. is significant to pedestrian rights because it is an example of how the state wants to surpass a part of the constitution, the right to assemble, in order to weed out citizens that wouldn’t be potential customers. The district court wants to control special boundaries based on socioeconomics. It was ultimately clear to Amster that, “the city was singling out the homeless”. The decision to ban persons from sitting or lying is unconstitutional, and the people of Arizona are all free to occupy Mill Avenue as they please.

- Maxine Miller and Brianna Jones

Diaz, E. (2000). Federal judge strikes down tempe law against sitting on sidewalks. Arlington, VA, United States: Retrieved from

Steckner, S. (2001). Sidewalk sitting ban in tempe will stand. Arlington, VA, United States: Retrieved from

Lipsitz, George. (2007). The Racialization of Space and the Spatialization of Race: Theorizing the Hidden Architecture of Landscape. Landscape Journal. Vol. 26. No. 1 pp. 10-23

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