Life, liberty and the pursuit of spare change
Trudy Potts has been asking motorists in Austin, Texas, for donations for more than two years. According to the city's sidewalk solicitation ordinance, "A person who is in or next to a street, on a sidewalk, or in a private parking area commits an offense if the person solicits, or attempts to solicit, services, employment, business or contributions from an occupant of a motor vehicle." Photo from the Austin American-Statesman.
A city ordinance that banned begging for money or work on the side of the road has been struck down by a judge in Austin, Texas.
The law violates First Amendment free speech rights and is “overly broad and not narrowly tailored,” the judge wrote.
“I think it’s a dramatic victory for the rights of free speech and shows that Austin can not continue to harass its homeless population,” said Wayne Krause, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project who worked on the case.
This is the second time in five years that an Austin ordinance perceived as targeting homeless people has been declared unconstitutional. In 2000, a judge ruled that part of the city’s camping ordinance was illegal because it wrongly banned people from sleeping in public.
Neither law specifically mentioned homeless people. “Generally they don’t mention homeless people in the ordinances because they don’t have to,” said Michael Stoops, interim executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C. “Everyone knows who they mean.”
Read news reports here and here.
The Austin American-Statesman came out in favor of the ordinance, citing public safety concerns. Read the editorial here.