Grand Rapids has made panhandling illegal and a large number of people have been thrown in jail for begging for money. While panhandling is annoying and may make a city look bad, should it be deemed illegal? Is this law a violation of free speech? Is the poor asking for money worse than others who ask for money like kids selling Girl Scout cookies, the Salvation Army ringing a bell for donations or any other charity or person asking for something? A case is pending that will decide these questions.
State Rep Shanelle Jackson, D- Detroit, argues that just because someone is impoverished, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to ask for help in the same way charities and others do in cities all over the country. She believes Grand Rapids is violating the First Amendment rights of the poor by banning panhandling and hopes a judge agrees. Jackson argues that throwing poor people in jail for panhandling is a waste of taxpayer money. She believes Grand Rapids sees the poor as an eyesore and is treating them this way. The poor don’t want to beg but circumstances may force them to do so to live day-to-day. She thinks the city should partner with churches, community organizations, and state lawmakers to focus on gathering resources for the poor to get them out of poverty and help them improve their lives. Why isn’t Grand Rapids doing more to help the homeless eat, find jobs, and pull their way out of poverty? She doesn’t understand it.
Jackson also talks about her decision to run against John Conyers in the upcoming election. Obama endorsed her competitor. Is this a problem for her? And why does she feel so compelled to run? Listen to the full interview:
Jackson interview: Part 1
Jackson interview: Part 2