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Canton Repeal’s Panhandling Legislation

Canton City Council voted Monday night to repeal the city’s panhandling ordinance.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent Canton and many other cities a letter over the summer threatening a lawsuit if the cities didn’t repeal their ordinances prohibiting people from asking for money.

The ACLU says such ordinances are unconstitutional and a restriction on free speech.

Canton Law Director Kristen Bates Aylward says the city researched the issue and came to the same conclusion that the ACLU did, “that the courts are going to strike down ordinances similar to the one we had on the basis of the 1st Amendment.”

She says the panhandling law was used very infrequently, and the occasions where it had been utilized, there were other distinct criminal charges that are constitutional that accompanied it, “like criminal trespass, disorderly conduct and things of that nature. So we don’t really need it, and I believe the police department feels the same way.”

She adds that the police department has an outreach program for people in need, and there’s also a mobile crisis task force.

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