Fort Collins protests proposed sit-lie ban by sitting in snow

Rachel Telljohn

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“Sit Happens” and “Compassion My Ass” were two of at least a dozen signs in Oak Street Plaza facing drivers, headed southbound on College Avenue for their Friday afternoon commute.

Drivers who honked received a cheer from the twenty or so people sitting on the plaza. Despite temperatures dipping below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, a small crowd turned out for the “Sit-In Against Sit-Lie” demonstration, hosted by the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition in response to proposed city council legislation.

Levi Henderson sits down next to Lynn Thompson at the Sit- Lie Ban Protest. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

“At the moment I’m just delighted (that there are people here),” said Lynn Thompson, one of the organizers with the Coalition.

The proposed ordinance would make it illegal for anyone to sit or lie on sidewalks and plazas in Fort Collins as well as to lie or recline on benches. It would also prohibit leaving personal items unattended.  

Thompson and Cheryl Distaso, another Coalition organizer, brought with them blankets, coffee and signs for community members who showed up in spite of the cooler weather.

As a small crowd began to form Thompson and Distaso moved the tarps and blankets so that the crowd could sit facing out towards College Ave. with their signs.

A group of hula hoopers joined and brought chalk with them in order to decorate the sidewalks with flowers and encouraging messages.

“I like that it’s a sit-in and a twirl-in,” Thompson said.

The sit-in was different from other recent protests in Fort Collins and the surrounding area. There was no chanting and there were no speakers. Of the roughly twenty people in attendance, most opted to sit quietly and hold a sign instead of yelling, marching or the like.

Some community members previously attended two meetings, an open-house and a coffee chat that were hosted by the city, in addition to the sit-in. Others, like Robin Berl, were glad of the convenient timing of Friday’s sit-in.

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Berl has two young children and was unable to make the city’s meetings. Berl brought her children with her to the sit-in and said she and her husband have explained to their children, in simple terms, why it is important they protest.

“On a cold day I figure that’s when we need to be out here more,” Berl said. “It’s not sunny, it’s not beautiful. If I have the privilege to do (things that would keep me warm and comfortable) I can amplify the voices that don’t.”

Berl and her family were not the only people in attendance willing to offer their voice to the homeless community.

Jeff McKissack makes snow angel motions on the concrete after saying, “I’m not standing for this anymore,” at the Sit- Lie Ban on Friday afternoon. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Jeff McKissack arrived during the latter half of the sit-in and purposefully laid himself out on the sidewalk. Laying on a sidewalk is part of what the proposed city ordinance would ban.

“It’s a testament to these people,” McKissack said, gesturing to the crowd. “I’m here to share my food with these fine folks.”

McKissack had a bag of food with him and jokingly offered up sour-grapes for anyone in need of them.

Green cards were distributed by the Coalition with the intent that those who received the cards during the sit-in would sign them in protest of the ordinance. The cards were collected, once signed, and will be given to the city.

The Coalition also distributed pamphlets explaining the ordinance, and efforts from the city, and about how sit-lie bans have not historically worked in other cities.

Fort Collins City Council will meet Tuesday, March 7 to vote on the ordinance. The Coalition urged all who can to attend and to tell the city to vote “no.”

Collegian reporter Rachel Telljohn can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @racheltelljohn.