Albuquerque keeps pursuing panhandling ordinance | KOB 4
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Albuquerque keeps pursuing panhandling ordinance

The Associated Press & Chris Ramirez
October 11, 2019 06:29 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Albuquerque is continuing its pursuit of an ordinance that would restrict panhandling despite a judge's ruling that the city's law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

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The city is appealing that decision to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The measure prohibited panhandlers from standing on sidewalks and medians in the city's streets to solicit motorists. City officials cited safety as the issue.

"This whole safety argument has always been a pretext for just wanting to get homeless people off of corners, out of sight and sweep them under the rug," said Maria Martinez Sanchez with the New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU challenged the 2017 ordinance on behalf of four people, saying the city's panhandling ordinance infringes upon a person's right to free speech.

The ACLU represented a woman who was homeless and regularly sought donations on the street, a couple who handed out donations from their vehicles and a woman who distributed fliers to drivers at red lights.

Martinez Sanchez said that public forums like city streets and sidewalks have always been places where people can do things like show support for a political candidate, announce yard sales, or ask for money.

"Streets have quintessentially been held as places where people can express themselves," she said.

The ACLU pointed out that the city already has laws to keep both motorists and people near streets safe.

"If somebody is darting out to traffic, obviously there is a law that covers that.  If somebody is holding traffic up or is just standing in traffic, there are laws that will appropriately address those problems," Martinez Sanchez said.

City officials sent KOB 4 a statement about the ordinance a few weeks ago that read in part, "We are ready to support new City Council efforts to keep our streets safe and reduce pedestrian injuries associated with chronic panhandling."

Trudy Jones, the city councilor who sponsored the ordinance, says she thinks the community wants action.

There is no word yet on when the U.S. Court of Appeals will take up this case.

Credits

The Associated Press & Chris Ramirez

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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