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Cranston being sued for panhandling ordinance

The City of Cranston is being sued again for a second panhandling ordinance. The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island filed the lawsuit today in federal court. The lawsuit argues that an ordinance banning people from asking for money on roadways is unconstitutional, as it violates the First Amedment.

People who solicit donations on roadways are being targeted by another iteration of an ordinance that was previously struck down. Photo by Hanlly Sam.
People who solicit donations on roadways are being targeted by another iteration of an ordinance that was previously struck down. Photo by Hanlly Sam.

“They need to stop criminalizing it,” said Barbara Freitas, the Director of the Rhode Island Advocacy Project, said on poverty. “People who are homeless or living in poverty—they have a right to be able to provide for themselves, and sometimes this is the only way people can do that.”

The first iteration of the ordinance was struck down in April 2016 after a year of enforcement when the city, as part of the settlement with ACLU, acknowledged it violated the First Amendment.

Freitas said that the new ordinance is basically the same as the first, minus some superficial changes to language. The new law doesn’t refer specifically to motorists who donate, according to her.

She said that the city should use tax dollars to alleviate poverty rather than to criminalize it. Freitas said the trial will begin Thursday.

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