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Thu Jun 27, 2013, 02:38 PM

Panhandlers & Homeless Sue Flagstaff Police

Panhandlers & Homeless Sue Flagstaff Police

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) - Flagstaff police used an unconstitutional Arizona law to arrest a 77-year-old disabled Hopi woman and "hundreds" of others for panhandling, people claim in Federal Court.

Flagstaff resurrected a little-used law against being "present in a public place to beg" to justify "Operation 40," a clampdown on loitering and panhandling in the downtown tourist district that began in 2008 and continues today, according to the lawsuit.

"Hundreds have been arrested for using their constitutionally protected right to ask persons for money in a non-aggressive manner, whether orally or by holding a sign," the complaint states. "Defendants' policy and arrest practices are well known, and have predictably chilled plaintiffs and others from exercising their constitutionally protected rights of speech."


"On its face it prohibits constitutionally protected speech; arrests have been made in Flagstaff as soon as an undercover police officer hears a person asking for money, even for an amount of one or two dollars to buy food," the complaint states. "The statute is not limited in any manner, and covers requests made in any public area and at any time of the day or night. Aggressive or disruptive conduct is not a required element of this provision. This state law is directed at constitutionally protected expression and chills the exercise of this fundamental right, and should be enjoined by this court on its face."


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