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Florida city reverses ban on sagging pants after accusations it targeted Black men

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A South Florida city repealed a 13-year law banning residents from wearing sagging pants that revealed underwear, which some say unfairly targeted Black men.

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The Miami Herald reports The Opa-locka City Commission voted, 4-1 to repeal the original 2007 legislation and a 2013 ordinance that said women, not just men, could receive civil citations for sagging.

“I was never in support of it, even as a resident,” Vice Mayor Chris Davis told the Herald. “I felt it disproportionately affected a certain segment of our population, which is young, African-American men.”

The vote was a first in the repeal process. The Miami Herald reports it will need to be approved again during another meeting before it is official, however, the item was co-sponsored by four of the five commissioners.

In 2007, the law passed barring men from sagging their pants in public spaces. At the time, the ACLU of Florida stated the legislation would “impose overly harsh penalties for victimless behavior” according to the news outlet. In 2013, the law was updated to include women and the fine doubled to $500.

Judge Rules Ban On Saggy Pants Unconstitutional
Two youths wear their pants with underwear showing on April 23, 2009 in Riviera Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The city of Ocala in Central Florida attempted to pass a similar law in 2014, but the NAACP threatened legal action and it was repealed months later.

Commissioner Alvin Burke, the stand-alone vote against the repeal, says the law was not to paint Black men as criminals “but to uplift our young Black men” according to the Miami Herald.

“As of today, we still have our young men walking around with saggy, baggy pants,” Burke said to the outlet. “If y’all see fit to do away with it and just continue to let our young Black men walk around into our buildings like that … then so be it.”

The ACLU applauded the move in a statement to the Herald.

“Criminalizing the way someone wears their clothing serves no one. Similar ordinances have been pursued across the country and have only yielded heightened racial profiling by police and increased racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” the statement read.

Opa-locka, a city that is 58% Black with a poverty rate of 47%, according to the Herald, has signs reminding residents of the mandated dress code, reading “No ifs, ands or butts … It’s the city law!” The warnings feature artistic depictions of two Black men sagging their pants. The mayor has plans to remove them.

“The signs should get taken down,” Opa-locka mayor Matthew Pigatt said during a virtual meeting. “It’s long overdue and they need to go. They’re an eyesore in the city.”

PIgatt says he himself once “drank the Kool-Aid” and wore sagging pants but now says he sees that they were tacky.

“I do support the [education] and making sure that we take care of that decorum,” Pigatt said.

The vice mayor believes with national demonstrations against police brutality and racism, it is the right time to repeal the law.

Read More: Florida girl, 6, allegedly killed by mother after parental rights terminated

“What better climate to do it in than the one that’s going on around the country centered on police reform and just looking at ways that we can make our public services more equitable,” Davis told the Miami Herald.

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