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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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