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ACLU Says It Will Sue Akron Over Laws Limiting Panhandlers

photo of homeless sign

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says it’s planning to sue the City of Akron over its panhandling law.

The current law requires people to get a license to panhandle and restricts where panhandling can take place. The law also requires an ID badge, which involves being photographed and fingerprinted. In January, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Akron officials asking that the law be repealed, citing it as a violation of free-speech. Akron’s law department has that letter under review.

ACLU attorney Joseph Mead says a suit is being prepared because the law is far too restrictive.

“The right of free speech belongs to everybody: if you are poor [or] if you are rich. It doesn’t matter who you are, you have the same constitutional rights.”

Mead disagrees with the argument that the law is a safety issue.

Mead on panhandling safety

“There’s very little evidence -- actually there’s no evidence -- to support that. And when you look at the rationale the city actually considered when they were passing it, safety was not the concern. These laws are driven, primarily, by a desire not to have to see poor people. And that’s just not a legitimate basis for the government to decide things.”

Akron City Council has called a special meeting for Monday at noon to discuss the panhandling issue.