Sidewalk protester arrested after mayor rejects meeting

Mayor Dan Sullivan dismissed the homeless man protesting downtown Wednesday, saying he had no intention to talk with him.

"I try to limit my discussion with first-degree sex offenders," he told reporters.

Sullivan said the man would have to "clean up and make himself presentable as a good self-worthy human being would do," as well as filling out a form in the mayor's office if he wants to have a legitimate meeting.

The mayor's remarks came at a press conference where he talked about his new proposed law to ban sitting or reclining on downtown sidewalks, with exceptions for things like medical conditions, waiting at a bus stop, parades and the like.

The ordinance arose from a protest staged by John Martin, a homeless man who was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

Martin since late June has sat, reclined or stood with his dog and a blanket on the City Hall sidewalk or on a sidewalk across the street at Sixth Avenue and G Street. He stayed there most days and some nights. He said he was protesting the mayor's policies toward the homeless, and wants to meet with the mayor.

The city doesn't have a specific law making it illegal to sit or lie on sidewalks, said city attorney Dennis Wheeler.

In a memorandum explaining the need for a new sidewalk law, the administration didn't talk about Martin or his background but said the no-sitting law would allow for "free and convenient passage of pedestrians."

But Wednesday, Sullivan said Martin's no poster child for the homeless.

"This is a dangerous person," the mayor said. "This is not a nice person. And so the fact that he was protesting across from City Hall brought a wider issue to our attention."

Sullivan said, "I don't think he properly represents the homeless issue given his background."

Later Wednesday, at 4:45 p.m., police arrested Martin, charging he is not in compliance with the sex offender registry.

The registry lists him as "homeless -- generally stay in Campbell Creek area."

The allegation is that Martin has moved downtown, said police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.

Besides restricting sitting on sidewalks, the Sullivan proposal would also amend the city panhandling law to prohibit panhandling downtown, among other things.

If passed by the Assembly on Tuesday as written, the new sidewalk law would go into effect immediately, Sullivan said.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at or 257-4340.

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