ACLU of Wisconsin applauds Madison’s Decision to Cease Enforcing Unconstitutional Panhandling Ordinance

Friday, January 8, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Jan. 8, 2015

MADISON – Last night the Madison city attorney announced that he was recommending the Madison police cease enforcement of its panhandling ordinances. His decision came in response to a Jan. 5, 2016 letter from the ACLU of Wisconsin, outlining the ways in which the city’s ordinance unconstitutionally burdens the free speech of poor and homeless Madison residents.

“We are pleased that the city of Madison has recognized that all  its residents – even homeless ones – have free speech rights. The message they convey, about their needs and their destitution, may be disturbing to some, but they have the constitutional right to convey that message,” stated Karyn Rotker, ACLU of Wisconsin Senior Staff Attorney.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has also urged the city to ensure that it is not jailing poor and homeless residents for failure to pay municipal tickets due to their poverty. “We encourage the city to instead move forward with positive steps to resolve the problem, such as establishing a day shelter and vigorously pursuing the Zero:2016 plan to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016,” Rotker added.

A copy of the letter to the Madison City Attorney is linked below.

The ACLU of Wisconsin is a non-profit, non-partisan, private organization whose 7,000 members support its efforts to defend the civil rights and liberties of all Wisconsin residents. For more on the ACLU of Wisconsin, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison.