Worcester sued over panhandling law

The city of Worcester is being sued over its new aggressive panhandling law. Credit: Google Images
The city of Worcester is being sued over its new aggressive panhandling law. Credit: Google Images

A school committee member in Worcester joined two homeless residents in suing the city Monday, charging that an ordinance intended to block aggressive panhandling violated their right to free speech.

Plaintiffs Robert Thayer and Sharon Brownson are both homeless. They, along with school committee member Tracy Novick, charged that the ordinances, adopted in January, would also hurt political speech by banning political candidates from campaigning on traffic medians and rotaries, and banning anyone from soliciting in public from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise.

“The city and the police department’s enforcement of the ordinances is focused on ‘panhandling’ by the homeless, and not on other speech or conduct that may take place on roadways, rotaries or traffic medians and islands,” the suit contends.

It noted that no arrests were made at a recent protest against the ordinance held on traffic medians, but that “several homeless individuals” have since been arrested for violating the rule.

The lawsuit contends the ordinance violates both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech, and the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal treatment under the law.

Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty had no immediate comment on the suit, said his chief of staff, Michael Lanava.

Attorney Matthew Segal of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is representing the plaintiffs, said the Worcester rules are overly broad in their definition of “aggressive panhandling.”

“It can be defined in different ways and sometimes, as is the case in Worcester, it is defined to prohibit actions that are not aggressive,” Segal said. “The ordinance prohibits begging within a half hour of darkness. Someone holding up a sign asking for help with a half hour of daylight left in the day is doing something that is completely protected by the First Amendment and is not aggressive.”

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBos



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Girl, 10, dies after being pulled from water…

A 10-year-old girl died after being pulled from the waters off Coney Island Beach in Brooklyn on Tuesday night, police said.

News

NY judge throws out lawsuit by Empire State…

A New York state judge has thrown out a lawsuit in which longtime investors in the Empire State Building claimed they were shortchanged out of hundreds of millions of dollars…

Local

Mysterious white flags appear over Brooklyn Bridge

Two white flags mysteriously appeared over the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday in place of the American flags that are a traditional fixture.

National

Judge sets January start for murder trial of…

By Elizabeth BarberBOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be tried in January for the murder of semi-professional football player Odin…

Movies

From 'La Femme Nikita' to 'Lucy,' a list…

French filmmaker Luc Besson has created a cottage industry of junk cinema. Here are his many unique action heroes, including Liam Neeson and "Lucy"'s Lucy.

Movies

Review: 'Lucy,' with Scarlett Johansson, is smart, stupid…

Luc Besson's "Lucy," in which Scarlett Johansson gains increased control over her brain, is a film about smart and stupid but always enjoyable.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 7,…

Drunk girls and ghost brownies: here’s your weekly ‘Pretty Little Liars’ recap by way of Q&A. Q: do they really not check for feet under…

Arts

Don't miss 'Charles James: Beyond Fashion' at the…

Have you been meaning to see "Charles James: Beyond Fashion"? There are only two weeks left to get to the Met and catch this amazing American fashion designer's collection.

NFL

David Tyree hiring has gay rights advocates angry

Former Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree will re-join the franchise as its new director of player development.

NFL

Ben McAdoo's new offense has Giants excited to…

Even Tom Coughlin feels he has a lot to learn about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s new offense, which makes the veteran coach very excited.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead…

MLB Power Rankings: A's, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers lead pack

NFL

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will…

2014 NFL season betting odds: Which team will win Super Bowl?

Tech

Learn Braille with these gloves

U.S. scientists have designed high-tech gloves to help users understand Braille in a matter of minutes.

Home

5 New Ikea products that will change your…

We round-up the latest must-have products.

Food

Recipe: Wolfgang Puck's Buttermilk French Toast

We recently spent some time chatting with restauranteur/celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck at his Wolfgang Puck American Grille in the Borgata in Atlantic City. Puck wanted…

Style

Go retro with your sneakers

The best of wacky new sneakers.