Arlington, Va.—Today, the Fulton County Superior Court ordered the city of Atlanta to begin issuing permits to street vendors. This puts to an end the nine-month scorched-earth policy of Mayor Kasim Reed, who has repeatedly attempted to throw all vendors out of work in the wake of a previous court ruling striking down the city’s unconstitutional vending monopoly.
“Today’s ruling is a firm rebuke to Mayor Reed’s decision to willfully disregard court orders in pursuit of his illegal efforts to deny vendors their right to earn an honest living,” said Attorney Robert Frommer of the Institute for Justice, which represents the vendors. “The court’s order confirms that the Mayor’s actions were lawless then, they are lawless now, and they must stop.”
On Monday, September 27, 2013, the Institute for Justice asked Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua of the Fulton County Superior Court to immediately order city officials to follow the law by issuing vending permits to qualified Atlanta vendors. This hearing was necessary because Mayor Kasim Reed had ignored two separate rulings by the court that make clear Atlanta’s entrepreneurs have a right to vend on public property, just as they have done for decades. Instead, Mayor Reed and other city officials illegally shut down all public-property street vending and threatened vendors with fines and jail.
In 2009, then-Mayor Shirley Franklin signed an exclusive twenty-year contract that handed over all street vending in Atlanta to a multi-billion-dollar Chicago company, General Growth Properties (GGP). Atlanta vendors joined with the Institute for Justice and filed suit to strike down the vending scheme, which would have thrown them out of work—or forced them to pay thousands of dollars to GGP. In December 2012, Judge LaGrua struck down the scheme and the law that authorized it.
Rather than accept the court’s ruling, Mayor Reed illegally shut down all street vending citywide, throwing dozens of vendors out of work right before the Braves’ opening day and the NCAA Final Four. Mayor Reed’s crackdown has kept vendors from working a single day this baseball season.
After negotiating with Mayor Reed proved fruitless, the Institute for Justice asked the court to clarify its ruling. And on July 2, 2013, the Fulton County Superior Court did just that, making clear that its December 2012 order had reinstated the pre-existing vending law that vendors had worked under for years. The ruling came just one day after vendors and civil-rights activists engaged in a widely publicized protest on the steps of city hall. But Mayor Reed disregarded that decision as well, resulting in today’s court order, which is the third judicial ruling instructing the city to allow vendors to get back to work.
“There is no more sacred American right than the right to earn an honest living,” said Frommer. “And the Institute for Justice will restore that right to Atlanta vendors no matter how many court rulings it takes.”