BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wants Battle Creek officials to drop proposals being designed to regulate begging in the streets.

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports a letter from the ACLU says a proposed ordinance “will violate the constitutional rights of people who are struggling to survive, will criminalize a great deal of speech other than panhandling and will send a message that poor people are unwelcome in Battle Creek.”

The group’s letter comes as city commissioners hold public discussions on panhandling.  Last week, the commission was presented with an outline of possible ideas such as regulating downtown activity or creating laws to curb loitering and aggressive begging citywide.

City Attorney Jill Steele says the city believes it’s addressed concerns but is awaiting input from the public about how to proceed.

In 2012, new panhandling ordinances in Detroit and across the state drew criticism from the ACLU.  A federal judge that same year ruled that a state law outright banning panhandling in public places was unconstitutional, as it violated First Amendment protections for free speech and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. In 2013, an appeals court upheld that ruling.

In 2015, Bay City, Michigan approved an ordinance amendment banning panhandling in certain locations and between sunset and sunrise along with what was described as “aggressive panhandling.”

 

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