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Indianapolis Mayor Proposes Ban On Panhandling

A man asks for money on a street corner in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is proposing a ban on panhandling. During his State of the City address Friday, Ballard called panhandling “a racket” and said it needs to be stopped.

“I am hearing concerns from people who do not want to come downtown to shop, from business and tourism officials who say it’s starting to affect business, and even from motorists who are tired of people begging at off ramps and intersections not downtown,” he said. “To be candid, I agree with them.”

He says the City Council should adopt an ordinance that would strengthen the city’s restrictions on panhandling. It would prohibit people from asking for money within a one-mile “No Solicitation Zone” between North, South, East and West Streets.

It would ban the practice outside of downtown between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. It would also make panhandling illegal near intersections, crosswalks, building entrances or parking meters.

In his speech, Ballard said the measure was not an attack on the city’s homeless, but the proposal is already receiving criticism.

Legal director for the American Civil and Liberties Union Ken Falk says the ordinance would violate the panhandlers’ rights to the first amendment.

“It’s our position that this is a non-constitutional ordinance,” he says. “I assume that once it’s enacted and we have been contacted, then we would bring litigation to challenge it.”

The city council must adopt the proposal before it goes into effect.

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