Michigan Panhandling Proposal Would Ban Begging from Motorists
"GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Though a federal court has ruled that panhandling is a First Amendment right, the city plans to restrict the activity by making it illegal to ask for money from motorists.
A proposed law up for Grand Rapids City Commission review on Tuesday, May 13, also would prohibit panhandling in certain locations and ban certain tactics deemed too aggressive.
Among the rules:
• no solicitation in an [']accosting['] manner, or by continuing to beg after a person has refused the request
• no solicitation within 15 feet of a public restroom
• no solicitation within 15 feet of an ATM machine, or a building that has an ATM in it
• no solicitation on a public bus or within 15 feet of a bus stop
• no solicitation from anybody waiting in line to enter a building, like at Van Andel Arena
• no solicitation from any driver or passenger on a public street
City Attorney Catherine Mish said the proposed ordinance is modeled after one in Kentwood. Several area communities have been enacting similar rules since a federal judge in August 2012 ruled that panhandling is protected speech.
The commission on Tuesday will consider setting a May 20 public hearing on the local restrictions.
[']It’s Kentwood’s ordinance with a few things deleted,['] Mish said. [']We didn’t add anything to it.[']
The American Civil Liberties Union wants Grand Rapids and other local governments to focus ordinances on behavior instead of panhandling itself, said Miriam Aukerman, an ACLU attorney in Grand Rapids. If a panhandler assaults somebody or interferes with traffic, that conduct can be prosecuted under existing laws, she said.
[']Our concern with the proposed ordinance is really about whether or not Grand Rapids is trying to do by different means what the court said it couldn’t do,['] Aukerman said. [']One of the real questions is how much area is really covered by (the 15-foot requirements) and is that effectively going to make it illegal to beg in Grand Rapids?[']
[']One of the things we’d like to see the city do is actually map it. How much of the city is actually off limits?[']
After a federal appeals court last year upheld the 2012 ruling, Grand Rapids paid $48,000 to the ACLU and two men who sued the city over getting arrested for panhandling.
Two assumed panhandlers in December were struck by a car and critically injured at 28th Street and U.S. 131 in Wyoming, which also has enacted local begging restrictions."