Colorado Springs not yet enforcing law against panhandling -- but is "educating" people

Page 3 of 3

In defending the city's position and arguing that officials have been consistent in its plan for enactment and enforcement, Melcher writes:
In support of the Downtown during this holiday shopping season, the City will continue to move forward with a strong presence in that area to both enforce current ordinances already in law and begin educating the community about the new ordinance passed by Council.
Education is fine, Silverstein says, as long as it does not lead to preemptive enforcement that he believes would directly violate the rights of those in the "no-solicitation zone."

"If the city's saying what you're doing now is legal, but in a couple of weeks will violate the ordinance, that's one thing," he says. "But if they say what you're doing now is made illegal by an ordinance passed last week, people might get the idea that the ordinance is already in effect.... It really depends on what communications are being made to people who want to exercise their First Amendment rights."

The ACLU and critics of the ban also argue that previous laws covered the aggressive panhandling that officials are targeting -- something that could be evident as the city maintains a strong presence in the area and continues enforcement of existing laws in the coming weeks.

"Many of the critics of the new ordinance wonder why the existing ordinances were not sufficient to deal with the problems that the city council wants to address," says Silverstein. He argues that there were laws in place to address the aggressive or threatening panhandling that officials seem to be targeting.

Silverstein says he hopes there are no illegal threats over the next few weeks.

"Our clients want to be in compliance with the law," he says. "If they are advised by police officiers that what they are doing is against the law, then they'll stop exercising their First Amendment rights."

Continue for the latest court filing from the ACLU and other relevant documents.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin