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Lawsuit wants panhandler laws declared unconstitutional

August 21, 2019

CHICAGO (AP) — A new lawsuit wants a federal judge in Chicago to deem unconstitutional laws that let charity groups solicit money on roadway medians but that ban panhandlers from doing so.

The filing on behalf of two panhandlers argues Illinois law and a Downers Grove ordinance violate free-speech rights of the men. They’ve faced charges for panhandling on a median in Downers Grove, west of Chicago.

The lawsuit filed by ACLU and other lawyers Tuesday says safety can’t be a justification, noting fire departments that solicit contributions at the location aren’t subject to tickets or arrest.

A Downers Grove statement Wednesday said the village dismissed the charges against the panhandlers after the ACLU raised concerns in March. Village police also stopped enforcing the ordinance. The village said the suit was “a surprise” given its “cooperative response.”

State police declined comment.

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