ACLU of Indiana Files Suit to Stop City of Indianapolis from Violating Free Speech Rights of Panhandlers

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
August 16, 2013 12:00 am

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INDIANAPOLIS – Several indigent people who displayed signs asking for funds in Downtown Indianapolis have filed suit today against the City of Indianapolis for violating their free speech rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of four individuals who were unlawfully ordered to move by Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers for requesting donations within the past week. The plaintiffs, who all live in poverty, passively solicit contributions from pedestrians near Circle Centre Mall by holding up signs. They do not seek funds from people driving by, and do not verbally harass pedestrians. The plaintiffs’ activity is fully protected by the First Amendment.

ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said, “The First Amendment protects the rights of all people to ask for contributions, whether they are seeking political donations or asking for assistance for poor people on city sidewalks. This case seeks to vindicate a right that is fundamentally important for all.”

“The ACLU of Indiana believes in the power of the First Amendment to give everyone a voice, even when those voices confront us with our greatest challenges, such as poverty and homelessness,” said Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana executive director. “The power and purpose of America’s commitment to free speech involves accepting its benefits and its costs. We can and will remain a welcoming city without silencing our fellow Americans.”

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