Archive for April 14th, 2010

By CFS

While hundreds of people gathered in front of Missoula City Council Chambers for Monday night’s meeting a local homeless man died only a block from all the commotion.  The Missoulian reports that police found a 46-year-old man behind 130 W. Broadway, the location of La Parrilla and Fed Ex, at around 7:10 in the evening.  An autopsy concluded that the man died from injuries sustained from an assault and police are ruling this a homicide.

Any death like this is a tragedy, but given the situation and timing of the incident the man’s death seems even more tragic to me.

The irony bound in a member of Missoula’s most vulnerable population being killed only blocks away from where our generation’s civil rights issue just got resolved is amazing.  No time for the assault has been published, but the police found the man in the alley just an hour after City Council started up and with so many eyes on the streets it seems implausible that this incident went unnoticed.  If you happened to be downtown last night attending the rallies and might have seen something please come forward.

Is the contradictory dichotomy of our community’s laws towards these two different populations apparent to anyone else?    Have people already forgotten last years debate over the pedestrian interference ordinance when the council legislated moving the transient population off of downtown sidewalks so that people could got about shopping in downtown without being harassed (I over simplify).  We tossed a group of people who only a very small fragment of our population really cares about aside and out of public view.  Now here we are, patting ourselves on our backs for passing the anti-discrimination ordinance and proclaiming we are the bastion of minority rights in Montana.  Does anyone else see the contradictions apparent in the two city council resolutions?  We protect one group of people while purposefully marginalizing another group of people who already live on the fringes of society.

A 2007 survey of Missoula found that 551 homeless people lived in Missoula and that number has surely grown in the intervening three years as the economic collapse took hold.  Hell, in the thirty minutes I’ve spent writing this in Break Espresso I’ve seen more than a dozen transients wander aimlessly by.  And for a marginalized population do we really want to be pushing them out of public view?  I’ve noticed recently that large groups of homeless congregate in downtown alleyways where they won’t be harassed by cops and be out of public view.  Is this situation somehow safer than having them on city streets where multiple eyes can act as a regulation on behavior?

This assault happened away from the prying eyes of the public even with a large crowd near by.  Homelessness will continue to be an issue that Missoula must deal with or ignore at its own peril, just as discrimination against minority populations will continue to be a social ill that refuses to disappear regardless of our Constitutional rights or local laws.




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