America’s laws against lingering have roots in Medieval and Elizabethan England. Since 1342, the goal has always been to keep anyone “out of place” away.

Editor’s note: A series of racially charged incidents of “loitering” have triggered national outrage recently. This month, CityLab's visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger dives into the long history of laws against being somewhere you’re not wanted.

Further Reading:

  • “Vagrancy Laws and the 1960s,” C-SPAN
  • “The Forgotten Law That Gave Police Nearly Unlimited Power,” Time
  • “Racial Profiling via Nextdoor.com,” East Bay Express
  • “The Yes Loitering Project Ask Kids of Color to Rethink Public Space,” Fast Company
  • “#WhyLoiter Reclaims Public—and Inner—Space for Indian Women,” PRI
  • “Black Women vs. White Men in Public Spaces: Crosswalk Experiment and Relevance,” Girl with Pen
  • “How Punitive and Racist Policing Enforces Gentrification in San Francisco,” Truthout
  • “The Criminalization of Gentrifying Neighborhoods,” The Atlantic

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    Nothing Is ‘Sexier’ Than Building a Highway Over the Everglades

    Days before a key vote, Miami-Dade transit advocates are rallying against a proposed interstate expansion.

  2. Equity

    How D.C. Voted on Initiative 77

    Support for the controversial ballot measure, which will raise the minimum wage on tipped employees, fell on familiar race and class lines.

  3. Equity

    Houston Mayor: I Won’t Be an Enabler of Migrant Family Separation

    “There comes a time when Americans, when Houstonians, when Texans have to say to those higher than ourselves: This is wrong. This is just wrong.”

  4. Equity

    Criminalizing Homelessness Doesn’t Work

    “Anti-vagrancy” laws are cruel, costly, and counterproductive. They make it even harder to escape homelessness.

  5. POV

    To Build a Better Bus System, Ask a Driver

    The people who know buses best have ideas about how to reform the system, according to a survey of 373 Brooklyn bus operators.