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Complaint filed against NYPD alleges illegal relocation of homeless people

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint Thursday asking the NYC Commission on Human Rights to investigate the NYPD for allegedly illegal actions in ordering homeless people to “move along.”

“Move along” orders are a violation of the Community Safety Act, passed in 2013, that says a person’s actions must be used in making law enforcement decisions and forbids the cops from profiling people on the basis of characteristics such as race, gender identity or housing status, according to the NYCLU.

The NYPD launched a concerted effort in June 2015 to relocate homeless people in East Harlem, telling people living on the streets there that they would be arrested, taken to a psychiatric hospital or have their belongings destroyed if they did not comply with orders to move elsewhere, according to the civil rights group.

“The NYPD’s outreach services and interactions involving the homeless are carried out in a lawful and appropriate manner,” said Lt. John Grimple, a spokesman for the NYPD. The police department had not yet received the complaint and would review it upon receipt, he noted. 

But Chyna Burke, a member of Picture the Homeless, the grassroots organization that the NYCLU is representing, said that police regularly “take advantage of our powerlessness. ... Cops move us from spot to spot every 30 or 45 minutes. I’m not doing anything illegal.”

“When I was sleeping on the streets, they’d come through every couple of hours and tell us to move along, and threaten to arrest us or throw our belongings away if we didn’t,” added Jazmin Berges, another Picture the Homeless member.

“Homelessness is a tragedy, not a crime, and homeless New Yorkers need housing and social services not police intimidation,” said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. Her organization contends that the “move along orders” are humiliating and deprive homeless New Yorkers of their right to occupy public spaces while being “disruptive to homeless communities.” There are no drop-in centers in East Harlem for homeless people to use bathrooms, shower or rest, according to the NYCLU.


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