Mayor Reed, Tear Down This Fence!
Atlanta – Just one week ago, the Fulton County Superior Court ordered the city of Atlanta to “accept, review and process” permits to street vendors, putting an end to nine months in which vendors were targeted by the city after a 2012 court ruling struck down as unconstitutional the city’s vending monopoly.
No sooner did the vendors win the battle than it was discovered the city had some temporary concrete pots removed from the area of Five Points – where the vendors sold – and replaced with a fence permanently planted in the ground, “erecting a Berlin Wall of sorts again freedom of trade,” according to the Institute for Justice, which represented the vendors in the case.
The city’s outrageous move came even as, in an October 8 court order, Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua agreed with the vendors’ September 27 request to order the city to begin processing permits.
The city had ignored two separate rulings by the court that made it clear that Atlanta’s entrepreneurs have a right to vend on public property, just as they have done for decades. Instead, city officials shut down all public-property street vending and threatened vendors with fines and jail.
The vendors and the Institute for Justice filed suit after then-Mayor Shirley Franklin signed an exclusive 20-year contract in 2009 that handed over all street vending in Atlanta to a multi-billion-dollar Chicago company, General Growth Properties (GGP.) After the court ruled in the vendors’ favor in 2012, the city shut down all street vending citywide, throwing dozens of vendors out of work right before the Braves’ opening day and the NCAA Final Four.
The crackdown, which kept vendors from working a single day this baseball season, has gone from bad to worse.
“The ink was hardly dry on the court order when the vendors discovered they had been thwarted again,” said Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an Atlanta-based organization that proposes free-market solutions to public policy in Georgia.
“By installing a fence, the city of Atlanta is thumbing its nose at numerous court rulings. More egregiously, it is a petty and disappointingly transparent effort to block these vendors, these small business owners, from earning an honest living,” McCutchen added.
“We call on Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to remedy this injustice on these hard-working small-business owners: Mayor Reed, tear down this fence!”
The Institute for Justice, which represents the Atlanta street vendors, is the national law firm for liberty and fought the Kelo v New London eminent domain case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The homeowner lost the case, but the battle was won when states across the nation toughened eminent domain law to prevent abuse of property owners. IJ is available on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. To read more on this lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/atlanta-vending.
Contact Kelly McCutchen at (404) 256-4050.
Contact Institute for Justice attorney Robert Frommer, (lead attorney in the case) at (703) 682-9320 ext. 207.