ACLU of AZ wants judge to find Phoenix in contempt of court for sweeps of 'The Zone'

By Bridget Dowd
Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2023 - 5:08pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - 7:19am

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A view of "The Zone" in downtown Phoenix
Chad Snow/KJZZ
A view of "The Zone" in downtown Phoenix on May 15, 2023.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona wants a judge to find the city of Phoenix in contempt of a court order that prohibits the city from violating the constitutional rights of unhoused people during encampment sweeps. 

The December court order keeps the city from enforcing its camping and sleeping bans against unhoused people who can’t practically obtain shelter. 

It also says the city can’t seize or destroy their belongings without notice and an opportunity to reclaim it.

According to the ACLU, the city violated that order last week during a sweep of encampments in the area commonly called “The Zone.”

The city is planning another sweep next week, and the ACLU wants the court to prevent further cleanups until Phoenix can ensure compliance. 

In March, a county judge said the city had to clear out the camp after several downtown business owners sued.

In an email to KJZZ News, city of Phoenix spokesperson Kristin Couturier said, "The city of Phoenix vehemently disagrees with the plaintiff’s description of the May 10 engagement effort around the Human Services Campus. The city took a human-focused and dignified approach to the effort and we are disappointed that the ACLU and its plaintiffs did not address their concerns with the city prior to filing a motion with the court. Their assertions are not accurate."