Sacramento Judge Halts Homeless Ordinance

A federal judge in Sacramento ordered an immediate halt to an ordinance against aggressive panhandling on Thursday. The ordinance was unanimously adopted by the City Council in November.

The ordinance was approved after businesses and tourism groups about complained about the aggressive panhandling. It banned soliciting within 30 feet of ATMs or banks, driveway entrances to businesses or near bus stops.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ordinance after calling it a 'direct First Amendment case' that involves the free speech rights of people begging for donations from passersby. 

The reconsideration began to take effect in April when civil liberties groups and homeless advocates filed suit against the city, challenging the ordinance on behalf of homeless activist James Lee "Faygo" Clark. Clark said the ordinance unfairly kept him from soliciting for donations outside the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op.

"I can go to up to my spot at the co-op that I like to sit at and hold my sign peacefully - not bothering anybody - and try to get some food for the day," he said. "I'll be able to do that without worrying about risking arrest."

England says that it may be "bothersome" to some people to be approached and asked for money but the rights to free speech for these people must be considered.

Photo: Getty Images

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