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Government & Politics

ACLU Sues Cleveland Over Its Panhandling Laws

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ACLU of Ohio
The ACLU of Ohio is suing Cleveland over the city's panhandling laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is suing the city of Cleveland in federal court over its panhandling ordinances. The group says the laws are unconstitutional because they single out one type of free speech, which is asking for money.

One ordinance prohibits panhandling on sidewalks and streets and bans asking for money from passing cars. The other restricts panhandling close to bus stops, valet parking zones and building entrances. ACLU attorney Elizabeth Bonham says the suit was filed on behalf of disabled veteran John Mancini who was convicted of violating the law.

“What these ordinances do is they say Mr. Mancini may not panhandle in Cleveland. He could stand in the very same place in the very same way and say “Go Cavs,” he could make a political statement, he could say anything. But he’s committing a crime if he’s asking for money.”

Bonham says similar laws in other cities have been ruled unconstitutional. Last year, Akron rescinded its law requiring panhandlers to register with the city after the ACLU sued. Cleveland will not comment on pending litigation.