People Speak Out on Panhandling & Downtown Mall Enhancements - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

People Speak Out on Panhandling & Downtown Mall Enhancements

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Monday night, people spoke passionately at the Charlottesville City Council meeting against plans to address panhandling and unruly behavior on the downtown mall.  Things became so intense, that one speaker was escorted out of council chambers by police.

People certainly weren't holding back.  There were a couple of people launching expletives and things became very testy after one man asked supporters to stand with him in support.  The problem was he did it during an unrelated portion of the agenda.

One by one people took to the microphone during council's public comment to express their anger over what has been labeled as "downtown mall enhancements."

Businesses on the mall are hoping council can come up with a solution to address panhandling and "unruly" people, but support in Monday night's crowd was scarce.

"I'm sick of helping people who won't help themselves," said John Heyden, who spoke at the meeting.  "How many businesses will have to close before you get rid of them?"

Homeless advocate Nancy Carpenter said, "They are just as much a citizen, they are just as much, have rights as I do, just because they choose to do something different than I do... I don't have to support it, I don't have to like it, but I don't have the liberty to deny it."

Most comments were civilized, but others extremely bold.  One speaker told council to "screw the proposals", but it was after the public comment that things really became intense in council chambers.

Two men made an impromptu outburst during the consent agenda, after the public comment session passed. One of the two men was escorted out of the room by police.

Businesses are asking for the city to create a buffer zone, which would make it illegal for people to lie down or sit within 10 feet of any building of the mall.  Those against the buffer zone argue it's just a way for the city to hide its problems.

Moving forward, the city manager says staff is already looking to add more benches.  They are leaning toward ordinances that prohibit sitting down against the buildings and lying down on the mall.

The report of the "downtown mall enhancements" also suggested adding security cameras along the entire stretch of the eight-block mall, but Monday night council was against the idea of having cameras.  Click here to read the full report.

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