DENVER – The City of Greeley has repealed an ordinance that banned pedestrians from being present on traffic medians “for longer than necessary to cross the street” following a lawsuit by ACLU of Colorado. In the lawsuit filed last month, ACLU lawyers asserted that the “median ban” violated the free speech rights of those engaging in expressive conduct on traffic medians, including individuals soliciting for charity.
“Greeley adopted the median ban to target people experiencing poverty, but its reach was much broader,” ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein said. “All people have the First Amendment right to access public spaces like medians for expressive activities, including asking for charity, engaging in political speech and promoting businesses or organizations. Greeley’s restrictions on this conduct violated the Constitution.”
The city enacted the Median Ban in 2015 in an attempt to curb panhandling. Consistent with this purpose, all known citations issued by the Greeley Police Department under the ordinance were to individuals who were soliciting charity. Violators of the ordinance were subject to fines of up to $500.
When the ACLU’s lawsuit was filed on September 10, Greeley agreed to a court order forbidding enforcement. The repeal of the ordinance was then introduced at a City Council meeting on October 1, 2019. Following last night’s public hearing and final reading, the repeal will restore people’s right to stand freely on traffic medians in Greeley.
“We applaud the city’s actions in repealing this unconstitutional ordinance,” said ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Arash Jahanian. “We encourage other cities to remove similar restrictions on the right to free expression, without the need for legal intervention.”
The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.