Fung Says Cranston Can Still “Make its Argument ” in Legal Battle Over Anti-Panhandling Ordinance

Friday, August 04, 2017


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Mayor Allan Fung

After U.S. District Court Chief Judge William Smith issued a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the City of Cranston’s anti-panhandling ordinance on Thursday, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung appeared on GoLocal LIVE to respond.

Fung said that he believes the city still has the opportunity to present its legal argument in support of the the ordinance, while the ACLU continues to challenge it.

“The Court finds that the public has a significant interest in local policies that do not infringe individual First Amendment rights, and will not be harmed by the issuance of this temporary restraining order pending a final determination about whether the Ordinance is, in fact, a violation of the First Amendment,” said Judge Smith.

Read the full text of the order HERE

The order will remain in effect pending a future trial on the ACLU of Rhode Island’s challenge to the ordinance.

“The courts have found that similar ordinances violate the First Amendment, and today’s ruling suggests that this ordinance is no different. It’s unfortunate that municipalities – Cranston in particular – continue to spend valuable tax dollars on efforts that undermine our constitutionally-protected rights and make the lives of the poor more difficult,” said Steven Brown, ACLU of RI executive director.

The Ordinance

The ordinance bars any person from entering a roadway “for the purpose of distributing anything to the occupant of any vehicle or for the purpose of receiving anything from the occupant of any vehicle.”

The suit, filed by ACLU of RI volunteer attorney Lynette Labinger, argues that the ordinance, enacted in February 2017 by a 5-4 vote of the City Council, violates the First Amendment right of individuals to solicit donations and to distribute literature on Cranston roadways.   

Plaintiffs in the suit include the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project; two Cranston residents – Karen Rosenberg and Deborah Flitman – who are members of the Cranston Action Network and would like to engage in leafleting from traffic islands, but are barred from doing so under the ordinance; and Francis White, Jr., a disabled and formerly homeless resident of Providence, who often has insufficient income to last to the end of the month and relies upon panhandling for additional support.


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