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Albuquerque sued by ACLU for hounding, and harassing homeless

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KRWG Regional News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and others are suing the city of Albuquerque to stop officials in the state's largest city from destroying homeless encampments and jailing and fining people who are living on the street.

The plaintiffs accuse the city of “cruel and unusual punishment” against people who are homeless and prosecuting them “for simply existing on public property with their personal belongings.” They also accuse the city of unlawfully seizing their property, denying them due process, and more.

The lawsuit filed Monday accuses the city of violating the civil rights of what advocates describe as Albuquerque's most vulnerable population. The lawyers claim Albuquerque has initiated a campaign in which city personnel hound and harass the homeless.

“The City workers were hostile toward those (who) were staying there, openly laughing at those whose belongings they were destroying and saying derogatory things to them,” according to the court documents.

The lawsuit also claims the city is illegally punishing people for sleeping in other public spaces when they have nowhere else to go and details a litany of alleged problems with the existing public shelter, the Westside Emergency Housing Center.

“The City’s enforcement of City ordinances and state laws that prevent unhoused people from residing on public property punishes unhoused people for their involuntary status of being unhoused — effectively making it a crime for unhoused people to exist anywhere with the possessions they need in order to survive,” the suit says.

When announcing in July that Coronado Park would close, the administration cited crime and the property’s deteriorating condition. The city intentionally did not give advance warning about the exact date of the closure, but representatives said the closure was preceded by weeks of intensive outreach to people camping on-site.

City residents have also complained that the homeless population has taken over city parks and that panhandling has become aggressive. Democratic Mayor Tim Keller's office did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.