Pensacola city officials have agreed not to enforce a controversial ban on soliciting donations in the city’s downtown core until a federal lawsuit over the new law is resolved.
The law 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. City council members narrowly approved the law earlier this month, and the ACLU of Florida filed suit days later on behalf of local nonprofit Food Not Bombs and two other individuals.
While the ordinance targets panhandlers specifically, its strict language also bars street performers and charities like The Salvation Army from seeking donations within the downtown area. ACLU attorneys have argued that the ban is an unconstitutional violation of free speech and due process rights.
Attorneys from the ACLU and Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore — the Atlanta-based lawfirm hired by the City of Pensacola — filed a joint brief in this week in U.S. District Court to record the agreement. As a result, a scheduled May 30 hearing has been cancelled.
“To avoid time and expense of litigating Plaintiffs’ motion, Defendants have stipulated that they will not enforce the Ordinance Section 8-1-28 as currently adopted unless: the Court issues an order dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims; the Court issues an order granting summary judgment in the City’s favor or otherwise enters judgment in the City’s favor; or Plaintiffs agree to withdraw their claims or otherwise to dismissal of their claims,” the filing reads.
The ACLU has successfully overturned similar anti-panhandling laws in other states and is currently involved in legal challenges to similar ordinances in Cleveland, Ohio and Belton, Mo.
Here’s a full copy of the joint motion filed by the ACLU and City of Pensacola attorneys this week: