We are picketing Cody’s today to draw attention to the fact that Cody’s owner, Andy Ross, has been one of the main proponents of the crackdown on street people that we have witnessed on Telegraph all year. Andy Ross and some of the other merchants united through the Telegraph Area Association are the ones who call in the Berkeley Police as though they are their private security firm. Anyone who is not spending money and remains in the area is subject to harassment because the merchants think they own the sidewalks and streets.
In reality the streets and sidewalks are public space and everyone should be able to use them however they want as long as they are not interfering with other people. This type of live and let live situation, though, is not good enough for Telegraph’s merchants. They want to maximize their profits and this means gearing their stores to middle and upper class people who’ll spend money. The merchants want to get rid of poor and unsightly people because the class of people they want to attract would prefer not to associate with the lower classes. The sight of poor people makes them uncomfortable and reminds them of the fact that their wealth is at the expense of other people’s poverty.
Andy Ross and others want the poor to disappear, or at least be out of view. Middle class people are appalled that poor people can hang out on Telegraph and have a good time without spending any money. Why, they’re wasting air and space that could otherwise be made available to shoppers and people with money. Andy and others therefore call in the cops to arrest these people, or harass them until they leave the area.
Why do the streets have to just be for shopping? Why does the entire focus of our society and our public spaces have to be for people to try and make money off eachother? Really everyone would be happier if as a people we sought satisfaction not believing that happiness comes through more consumption and consumer items. Telegraph’s merchants are setting up a situation for all of us where the only option is to come to spend money.
To defend the street people does more than just come to the aid of those people. It also defends the right of everyone else to come to the area for other reasons. It makes us all a little free-er from the constraints of the market economy and treadmill of consumerism in which we have to spend money–have to have money–to feel good about ourselves.
Let’s encourage Andy Ross to spend more time reading some of his own books and less time calling 911 by boycotting his store this holiday season.