The result of a vote, four votes in favor to one against, is the first step a small Florida city has taken to repeal its anti-sagging regulations. Since 2007, Opa-locka has punished those who let their underwear show, as dictated by the fashion of sagging pants. That year the City Commission (a legislative body in US municipalities similar to a plenary session) voted to ban men from showing their underwear in parks and public buildings. Six years later, in 2013, an ordinance extended that ban to women.
Although last Wednesday’s decision, also adopted by the Municipal Commission, is only a first step in lifting the veto on baggy clothing, be it pants or upper garments, the majority sentiment against the measure is already a fact. “I never supported that idea, not even when I was a simple citizen,” said the local vice mayor, Chris Davis, pick up the newspaper The Miami Herald. “It seemed to me that it disproportionately affected a part of our population, young African Americans,” added the mayor, who is African-American like the rest of the five members of the municipal commission.
Since November 2013, the fine for showing underwear has doubled, to $ 500 (about 421 euros), exchangeable for 25 hours of community service. Although the number of people fined is unknown, representatives of the municipality have indicated to the newspaper that from January to November 2013 there were 72. In recent years, according to the members of the municipal commission, the sanctions have decreased.
The city continues to wear the posters warning of the ban with a pun that turns an expression to reprimand children (“No ifs, ands, or buts”, something like “no buts or excuses” ), but change the last word, buts (“buts”) by butts (“rear”). “It is the law of this city!”, Concludes the warning, which refers that ordinance 07-19 prohibits wearing sagging pants in publicly owned areas.
The only member of the commission who voted against lifting the veto, Alvin Burke, rejects that the measure stigmatized black youth. “To this day, we still see our young people walking around with their pants loose and sagging. If everyone sees fit [eliminar la ley] and allow our young blacks to enter our buildings so … so be it, “said the commissioner, a 66-year-old African American.
The five members of the commission did agree on something: it is necessary to ensure that the residents of the city, of about 15,000 inhabitants, respect decorum, although they are committed to educational measures that contrast with the severity of the penalizing measure. The majority of the population of Opa-locka is black, 58%, and 47% of its inhabitants live in poverty.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a progressive NGO, called the 2007 measure a “huge waste of public resources”, which also imposed “very harsh penalties for behavior that does not cause any victims.” The organization pointed out that the measure mainly punished blacks. Now, the ACLU has applauded the preliminary decision against the veto, which they consider “a challenge to the principles of fairness, freedom of expression and legal procedures.”