Akron Could Face Lawsuit Over Panhandling Rules, ACLU Warns

Downtown Akron's skyline as seen in October 2015.
Downtown Akron's skyline as seen in October 2015. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is threatening to sue the city of Akron over laws restricting panhandling.

The rules have been on the books in some form for more than 20 years—and city council tightened them several years ago.

The current ordinance requires people to obtain a license before asking for money on the street. They receive an ID for free—but the law says they must agree to being photographed and fingerprinted.

They’re prohibited from panhandling at bus stops, outside churches and schools, near banks and ATMS, or near some other major civic buildings. They’re also banned from misrepresenting themselves, and they can’t get a license if they’ve broken panhandling laws in the past two years.

Joseph Mead, an attorney working with the ACLU, sent a letter to Akron officials Monday calling on the mayor and city council to repeal the ordinance.

“It restricts a particular type of speech: speech that communicates a need, asks for help,” Mead said. “That type of speech is protected by the Constitution. It’s free speech, and Akron cannot single it out for special restrictions.”

Akron communications director Christine Curry wrote in an email that Mayor Daniel Horrigan has asked the city law department to review judicial opinions and case law before he makes a formal statement on the issue.

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