ACLU alleges IMPD officers infringed panhandlers’ free-speech rights

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The ACLU of Indiana has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the city of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers violated the free speech rights of indigent panhandlers ordered to move from near Circle Center Mall last week.

The suit filed on behalf of four Indianapolis residents seeks class status for people who panhandle in the mile square downtown bound by North, South, East and West streets. “The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impractical,” the suit says. Named plaintiffs are Tina Morris, Melissa Peppers, Brenton Fordham and Fred Correll.

The plaintiffs say they passively requested contributions in compliance with state law and local ordinances but were cited, ticketed or ordered to move by four IMPD officers between  Aug. 12 and Aug. 14, ahead of one of downtown’s busiest weekends.  

According to the suit, IMPD officers ticketed or ordered panhandlers to move even though plaintiffs say they were engaged in lawful activity. At least one plaintiff says an officer said the city was “in the process of passing a law that would prevent persons from engaging in the conduct in which she was engaged.”

The suit was filed Friday. Indianapolis Corporation Counsel Andy Seiwert had no comment Monday. He said the city was aware of the suit but had not been served.

The Indianapolis City-County Council has tabled a proposed ordinance restricting panhandling downtown, and the suit notes the proposal is “widely reported as being dead.”

“The First Amendment protects the rights of all people to ask for contributions, whether they are seeking political donations or asking for assistance for poor people on city sidewalks,” ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said in a statement. “This case seeks to vindicate a right that is fundamentally important for all.”



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  1. Lori, you must really love wedding cake stories like this one ... happy enuf ending for you?

  2. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  3. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

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  5. I hope you dont mind but to answer my question. What amendment does this case pretain to?