The Municipality of Anchorage is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska over a controversial sidewalk sitting ordinance.
The law makes it illegal to sit or sleep on Downtown Anchorage sidewalks from 6 a.m. until midnight on weekdays, and 2:30 a.m. until midnight on weekends. It applies to an area bounded on the north and south by 1st and 9th avenues, as well as on the east and west by Gambell and L streets.
Mayor Dan Sullivan brought the ordinance to the Anchorage Assembly, which approved it but later tried to repeal the law. Sullivan vetoed that attempt.
The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of a Libertarian, a street performer, unions and activists.
Jeffrey Mittman, the ACLU of Alaska's executive director, said the law violates constitutional rights.
“Everyone knows once rights are lost, they cannot come back,“ Mittman said.
Mittman said the law makes it illegal to protest, ask for donations or be a street performer Downtown.
“As a musician, as a performer, as an artist-activist and as a journalist, I am both offended and outraged by these ordinances,” Teeka Ballas, one of the plaintiffs, told reporters at a Thursday press conference.
City Attorney Dennis Wheeler says the law is meant to be used to address public safety, and that the ACLU’s efforts could make it easier for people to panhandle.
“Their position appears to be that panhandling should be allowed to go on without restriction,” Wheeler said.
Mittman says the ordinance has other effects that could harm people who don’t pose a threat -- for instance, leaving people who eat outside on the streets of Anchorage technically in violation of the law.
The ACLU filed the suit Thursday morning.
Contact Rebecca Palsha