INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a federal lawsuit against Indianapolis on behalf of the city's homeless population over an order that required them to vacate certain sidewalks downtown.

The Indianapolis Star reports that the city's Department of Homeland Security and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department made an emergency declaration Aug. 4. It said people weren't allowed to congregate underneath multiple overpasses starting Aug. 8 because blocking the sidewalk was a public safety risk.

"Congestion and cluttering of the area from personal belongings or people in the public right-of-way inhibits safe passage by pedestrians and emergency first responders, blocks evacuation routes and allows for concealment of threats targeting pedestrians and first responders," the notice said.

The ACLU of Indiana said the declaration targets homeless people and exempts people who aren't homeless. The lawsuit also said the sidewalks are wide and that homeless people never blocked the public's access to the walkways.

The suit's plaintiff is Maurice Young, an advocate for homeless people. The suit alleges Young was told he couldn't sit, stop or stand underneath an overpass because an emergency had been declared, even though there were no events taking place at nearby venues that may be constituted an emergency.

The suit also said Young has observed other non-homeless persons gathering under the overpasses without any interference from authorities.

"Homeless people such as Mr. Young deserve respect for their humanity and the full protection of the Constitution," said Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana.

The lawsuit requests that the city's order be declared a violation of due process and equal protection. It also seeks an injunction to lift the ban.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star,