Begging Defended as a Constitutional Right

     CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) – Five Charlottesville panhandlers who describe themselves as “impecunious and reliant to a certain extent on begging” claim a new city law that prohibits begging outside of restaurants and cafes in a popular downtown restaurant district violates their freedom of speech.

     Albert Clatterbuck et al. sued Charlottesville in a constitutional complaint in Federal Court.
     The city ordinance “restricts the right to solicit on the downtown mall and criminalizes conduct in violation of that ordinance,” according to the complaint.
     The city’s downtown mall area hosts numerous restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating. The men say they “regularly beg within view of those restaurants and cafes.”
     They say the ordinance restricts their right to solicit money and criminalizes speech. And they say the ordinance is so vague it gives police unlimited discretion in enforcement.
     The men claim the ordinance limits “their right to communicate to the general public,” and causes them harm and emotional distress.
     They seek an injunction prohibiting and unspecified compensatory and nominal damages.
     They are represented by Jeffrey Fogel with the ACLU.

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