Panhandling Bans: It’s the precedent, stupid

According to the Bangor Daily News:

Three Portland residents are suing the city under the state and federal civil rights acts, saying a recent ordinance prohibiting individuals from stopping in median strips infringes on their constitutional rights to free expression.


A lawsuit against the city over the ordinance was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court on behalf of Michael Cutting, Wells Staley-Mays and Alison Prior by Zachary Heiden, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Don’t forget that nearly all speech has been stifled at one time or another for reasons of “safety.”

Having been in some very dangerous situations due to opening my mouth a political way in less than optimal situations, I am sure that based on the beggars-in-the-median argument, I can find 50 expressions of speech proven more treacherous than panhandlers. Why not The National Guard, or Bulldozers, protesting in general?

It’s the precedent, stupid. Did you know that this ordinance bans being in ALL medians, including the ones that are 50 ft wide or have benches in them? That’s not a loophole that could ever be abused by an overzealous police force, I am sure. There may be individual safety issues regarding individual medians, but an overarching policy-change that silences any sort of speech in the name of safety is a precedent that can be recklessly in numerous other circumstances and situations. How easily we forget that laws we might not believe to apply to ourselves today can very easily be perverted and applied to us tomorrow.


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Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.