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ACLU Of Florida Sues Pensacola Over Panhandling Ban

The Accent via flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is filing suit against a ban on panhandling in downtown Pensacola. The organization argues the rule is a threat to first amendment free speech.

Earlier this month, the Pensacola City Council banned begging for money on the streets of downtown. The city says the practice scares away tourists, and some residents and business owners agree. But the ACLU of Florida says the ban, and others like it across the country, are a threat to the first amendment. Staff lawyer Jackie Azis says people should look at the rule like they would any limit on free speech.

“Consider if the city had outlawed talking about religion on the streets of Pensacola. Or if they had outlawed just talking about politics or just talking about an ideological view of any kind. That’s what people need to think. Is this city overstepping what it’s allowed to do by singling out one type of speech?” Azis asked.

The ACLU is asking the federal court in Pensacola to overturn the ordinance. The City of Tampa lost a similar fight last year, when a court ruled its ban unconstitutional.