ACLU Sues Cleveland Over Panhandling Laws

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against two Cleveland laws banning panhandling. One of the ordinances restricts panhandling within 10-20 feet of bus stops, parking lots and building entrances. The organization says the laws violate an individual’s right to free speech. 

The ACLU filed suit on behalf of John Mancini who was arrested and fined earlier this year for begging.  According to the suit, Cleveland police issued more than five-thousand tickets for panhandling in the past decade.

Brian Davis is the executive director of the North East Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, which is a plaintiff in the suit. He said many panhandlers need a way to make money. He says that’s why the organization publishes its newspaper, “The Street Corner Chronicles”  for people to sell.

“We have vendors and we try to market to panhandlers. Then they’re giving away a constitutionally protected newspaper. Then you get a product. It’s not just begging for money.

City officials said they do not comment on ongoing litigation. 

The organization has sued several cities over similar laws. Last year, Akron repealed its panhandling law - which required panhandlers to register with the city - after the ACLU contested it.

 

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