Springfield Panhandlers Sue, Cite Free Speech
By The Associated Press
Springfield is defending its policies on panhandlers after a new lawsuit accused the city of violating free-speech rights by barring panhandlers from asking for money.
The suit filed on behalf of panhandlers this week in federal court says police wrongly tell panhandlers that what they're doing is illegal.
In an e-mailed statement, city spokesman Nathan Mihelich calls panhandling "one the most perplexing challenges facing Springfield.'' He contends that, "by definition, panhandling is unlawful'' and "can be a public nuisance.'' He says Springfield encourages people to donate to charities. He adds "handouts to panhandlers only exacerbate the problem.''
Mihelich says the city is open to alternatives to a ban. But he says "a federal lawsuit is not a path to those alternative solutions.''