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Cranston City Council Approves Panhandling Ordinance

Last night the Cranston City Council voted in favor of an ordinance that would criminalize panhandling in the city. After hours of discussion and rewriting the bill, the vote was close, with five council members in favor and four opposed. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung proposed the law, which prohibits panhandlers or groups seeking donations from standing in intersections or on roads where the speed limit is higher than 25 miles per hour.

The Providence Journal reports that Fung supports the ordinance as a way of protecting citizens from motor vehicle accidents. Cranston resident Melissa Jenkins, who organized the testimony against the ordinance, disagrees. She says that the ordinance is more about punishing the homeless. “They’re trying to make the homeless disappear, or be invisible, and pretend that it’s not a problem if we don’t see it,” Jenkins said. “But whether or not we’re seeing it directly in front of us, it’s still a problem and we have to treat the root causes of the problem.”

The ordinance is replacing a panhandling bill proposed to the council that was challenged by the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union and struck down in court last November. The American Civil Liberties Union plans to challenge this measure on the grounds that it infringes upon residents’ First Amendment rights.

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