Springfield Panhandlers to Sue City; Cite Free Speech
Springfield Panhandlers to Sue City; Cite Free Speech

Panhandlers are suing the city for allegedly violating their First Amendment rights to free speech by stopping them from asking for money.

The suit filed this week in federal court in Springfield says police wrongly tell panhandlers it’s illegal to panhandle. If they don’t leave an area, the suit says the panhandlers are sometimes arrested.  The lawsuit cites one plaintiff as making less than $25 a day panhandling with a sign reading, “Please Help Out Any Way U Can.” It claims the 52-year-old has been arrested for panhandling.

The Springfield suit seeks unspecified damages and asks that a city law prohibiting “vocal appeals” for “immediate donations” be declared unconstitutional.  Mark Weinberg, a Chicago attorney, is representing the Homeless United for Change organzation pro-bono.  He has similar cases against Chicago.

“This is a first amendment issue.  Most people don’t realize panhandling is protected speech under the constitution” says Weinberg.

Calls to the city from WTAX News have not yet been returned.

Weinberg visited with Ray Lytle and Kirk Farah Wednesday.  For the entire conversation, click on the link below.