The Oklahoma ACLU says Oklahoma City's proposed panhandling ordinance is unconstitutional. The city says, in some cases, panhandlers are putting themselves in danger.
Chances are if you have been through the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Memorial Road, you've seen someone panhandling or asking for a donation. There are laws against panhandlers leaving their post on the median and approaching your vehicle, but some believe a new ordinance, not yet in effect, is unconstitutional and even unfair to people who panhandle.
“It simply tried to prohibit this entire class of expression,” Brady Henderson of ACLU of Oklahoma said. “It is public property. In other words, it’s pretty hard for me to trespass on what belongs to me as a member of the public.”
The ACLU wrote a letter to the city about the new proposal.
“The difference in what this ordinance does it is doesn’t try to do anything about specific conduct that we find problematic, but it simply tried to make a blanket one size fits all model,” Henderson said.
Henderson said right now a park and a fire department are built in a median, meaning anyone visiting those places would technically be doing so against city ordinance. Right now, the old ordinance doesn't apply to medians, but the new one will prohibit anyone from being on a median except when crossing the street.
“If the city council votes it down or votes to overhaul it substantially the city can avoid litigation ever happening, because nothing is in effect yet,” he said.
City leaders say the new ordinance is for safety reasons. Violators could be fined. The city council will vote on the proposed ordinance on Oct. 13.