Cleveland sued, its panhandling laws called unconstitutional

By The Associated Press | Posted - Feb. 28, 2017 at 3:03 p.m.

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CLEVELAND (AP) — A civil rights group has sued Cleveland in federal court on behalf of a homeless man and a coalition of homeless organizations that say the city's panhandling laws are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. It says Cleveland's laws prohibiting people from "communicating information about their poverty" violate First Amendment rights of free speech. It seeks to overturn the laws.

Court records show plaintiff John Mancini has been cited four times since December for panhandling and three of the cases have been dismissed. The lawsuit says he's been told by police to leave areas where he's panhandling and has been threatened with arrest.

The lawsuit says between 2007 and 2015 police issued 5,800 panhandling tickets in Cleveland, a city of 400,000 residents.

A city spokesman has declined to comment.

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