Federal judge rules Charlottesville panhandling ordinance violates free speech protections

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — The city of Charlottesville has been ordered to halt the enforcement of an ordinance that prohibits panhandling on parts of the city's Downtown Mall.

The Daily Progress (http://bit.ly/1zSGfbN) reports a federal judge Thursday ruled the ordinance violates the First Amendment's free speech protections.

An attorney for a group of homeless people had argued the ordinance targeted a "certain class of people." It barred panhandling within 50 feet of either of two streets that cross the Downtown Mall, but it didn't stop someone for soliciting signatures for a political petition.

The city argued panhandling near the crossings was a public safety hazard, and people are free to ask for donations elsewhere on the pedestrian mall.

But U.S. District Judge Norman Moon says the ordinance reflected a focus on the panhandlers.

Information from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com

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