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 In January, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Akron officials asking that the law be repealed, citing it as a violation of free-speech.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.
“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.