Press Conference 5/14 - Homeless Union & Lawyers - Repeal Unconstitutional Panhandling Law now!
For Immediate Release:
Local & National Lawyers Agree: Greensboro’s Panhandling Laws (“Aggressive Solicitation”) Run Afoul of Citizen’s First Amendment Rights
Monday, May 14th, 2018 – 10am
Central Carolina Worker Justice Center
@ the Interactive Resource Center
On Tuesday, May 15th, the Greensboro City Council is set to take up a second vote regarding the City’s “Aggressive Solicitation” ordinance. This week, the council has received letters from a group of concerned local lawyers, the National Law Center on Homelessness &Poverty, and the ACLU of North Carolina, advising the council that nearly identical laws have already been struck down by courts around the country, and that the keeping the current ordinance will likely leave the council open to civil rights litigation. Since 2015, 100% of panhandling ordinances have been struck when tried in federal court, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and the chances that this ordinance would survive the court’s “strict scrutiny” criteria for content-based speech restrictions are slim. Legal Aide of North Carolina has also retained three clients to pursue potential legal action if necessary.
According to Eric Tars, Senior Attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty;
“[W]e know that your recently passed law is likely unconstitutional, fails to address the underlying causes of people needing to ask for donations, and will cost the city more in their enforcement than it would to simply provide the housing and services individuals need so they would not have to ask for contributions in the first place.”
In addition, the Homeless Union of Greensboro sent a document to the Greensboro City Council entitled, “Fight Poverty, Not the Poor: Constructive Alternatives to Criminalizing Poverty in Greensboro”, which outlines initiatives the city could take to actually address poverty through constructive policy, rather than punitive legal action. The document stresses the need for affordable housing, living wage employment opportunities, and the involvement of poor people in the designing and implementation of programs.
Emily Seawell, a Staff Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina writes,
“[M]unicipal regulation of solicitation raises not just legal issues, but also underlying issues of morality and how to best allocate public resources for the greatest public benefit. As this council well knows, ordinances restricting residents’ constitutional freedoms do not help cure poverty... With that in mind, instead of devoting city resources to imposing new criminal penalties or fines for those in need of help in public spaces, we encourage the city to work with motivated and knowledgeable groups like the Homeless Union and National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty to address the underlying causes of poverty and homelessness.”
“We can’t arrest our way out of this, and the council knows it.” said Marcus Hyde, an organizer for the Homeless Union of Greensboro, “Homelessness ends with a home, nothing else.”
Please see attached letters below: