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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. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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