Pensacola city council members reversed course on Thursday, voting to repeal a controversial ban on downtown panhandlers after less than a month on the books.
The law — which council members narrowly approved in May — makes it illegal for anyone to ask for a donation, either verbally or by holding up a sign, within a roughly 40-block section of the city’s downtown. While aimed at panhandlers, the ban also impacts street performers and charitable organizations like the Salvation Army.
The ACLU of Florida filed a federal lawsuit just days after the ordinance was approved, arguing that it’s unconstitutional and infringes on free speech rights. City officials agreed not to enforce the law until the lawsuit was resolved.
Council members Larry B. Johnson, Sherri Myers, Gerald Wingate, and P.C. Wu supported the repeal, while Brian Spencer and Jewel Cannada-Wynn voted to keep the law on the books. Councilman Andy Terhaar left the meeting before the vote.
Despite Thursday’s vote, the repeal isn’t yet a done deal; as was the case with the ordinance itself, two separate votes are required in order to strike it. A second and final vote will take place at the council’s July meeting.