Dear said he took it upon himself to spend his lunch break at the corner to show his opposition to what he believes to be a violation of the workers’ First Amendment right to assemble.
“I wasn’t doing this for any reason other than to stand in solidarity with the men who gather here,” he said.
Residents have said that the ordinance has decreased disturbances on the corner. And aldermen voted four to three against a repeal on Oct. 25.
Dear is part of a group of civil rights lawyers and activists against the ordinance who worry it prevents day laborers from finding work after 11 a.m.
Amanda Lattanzio, who works with Dear, has eaten lunch with him three times.
“It’s pretty incredible to me that this ordinance is in place,” she said. “I just think it’s wrong, and I want to show it’s wrong by coming here.”
Dear said police haven’t asked him to leave the corner.
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said this might be because the ordinance is not meant to regulate political statements.
“We’ve not been enforcing the ordinance with respect to those who are sitting out as a kind of political protest,” he said.
Chilton said a repeal of the ordinance is likely either tonight or in January after newly elected Michelle Johnson, who supports the repeal, is sworn in.
Johnson said she would like the town to consider other long-term solutions, like a workers center and resident and laborer negotiations.
Judith Blau, the director of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center, said she and other civil rights activists have also prepared a code of conduct signed by laborers to present at the meeting.
Chilton said together Dear and the group opposing the ordinance have drawn attention to the issue.
“I wouldn’t say it’s just his having lunch everyday,” he said. “His advocacy worked in combination with others in having a big impact in what will happen with the ordinance.”
Dear said repealing the ordinance is the right thing to do.
“The issues reflected here are not all simple, and the solutions aren’t easy for our community,” he said. “But the ordinance is simply wrong, and we can’t deal with the complicated issues until we repeal the ordinance.”
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