November 28, 2012
COLO. SPRINGS – Today ACLU of Colorado lawyers announced they filed a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court that seeks an immediate injunction against a sweeping “no solicitation zone” covering 12 city blocks of downtown Colorado Springs, including Acacia Park. The city council adopted the challenged ordinance yesterday, with enforcement to begin on December 2, 2012.
“City officials report that some panhandlers have been intimidating and harassing pedestrians,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “In an effort to purge these menacing panhandlers from downtown, the City has unjustifiably transformed our clients’ peaceful, non-threatening and constitutionally-protected communications into crimes. Instead of focusing narrowly on intrusive, menacing or coercive behaviors that invade the rights of others, Colorado Springs has banned any and all forms of ‘solicitation’ in a 12 city block swath of downtown. The First Amendment does not allow such a overbroad suppression of expression.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four organizations and four individuals, including:
- Greenpeace and Pike’s Peak Justice and Peace Commission (PPJPC), two nonprofit advocacy organizations that want to carry out outreach and fundraising activities downtown
- Star Bar Players, a nonprofit theater group that solicits pedestrians to buy tickets
- The Denver Voice, which seeks to protect its right to dispatch newspaper hawkers to the downtown area
- James Binder, a street musician who invites tips when he plays the flute on the downtown sidewalks
- Ronald Marshall, a disabled Colorado Springs resident who parks his wheelchair on a sidewalk corner while asking politely for spare change
- Laurel Elizabeth Clements Mosley and Roger Butts, who assert their right to receive the communications that the new ordinance will silence
“Our troupe uses a signboard and actor outreach outside our theater to sell tickets, which is illegal under the new no-solicitation ordinance,” said Beth Mosely, Star Bar Players Artistic Director. “As a struggling nonprofit that can’t afford traditional advertising, our financial survival depends on the ability to solicit pedestrians. Besides, street performers of all kinds contribute to a vibrant city culture and I want to be able to continue to enjoy and pay those downtown artists.”
The ACLU filed the suit in federal district court in Denver; it also filed a request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, along with a request for an expedited hearing. In addition to Silverstein, the plaintiffs are represented by ACLU staff attorneys Rebecca T. Wallace and Sara Rich.
For additional information and to read the complaint, click here.