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Gallup drops panhandling ordinance over free-speech concerns

December 15, 2017

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — The city of Gallup is repealing a panhandling ordinance that a civil rights group says violates freedom of speech.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said Friday that the city attorney sent a memo to the police chief instructing the department no longer arrest or cite panhandlers.

According to the memo, which the ACLU made available, City Attorney Curtis Hayes says a court would likely find the ordinance unconstitutional.

Hayes says the city still needs some kind of statute to prevent panhandling.

Gallup attorney Barry Klopfer first brought the measure to the group’s attention, arguing panhandling qualifies as protected speech.

The City Attorney’s office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The ACLU is also questioning a similar ordinance that the Albuquerque City Council approved last month.

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