A 5-year-old ordinance banning panhandling in downtown Springfield is the subject of litigation. A group that advocates for the homeless is suing to have the law invalidated. The suit filed on behalf of panhandlers this week in federal court says police wrongly tell panhandlers that what they're doing is illegal.
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Plaintiffs’ lawyer Mark Weinberg says the city’s ordinance unfairly restricts free speech, whether or not the public thinks beggars are blight on city’s image. He says panhandlers are also protected under the Constitution. “This is a First Amendment issue. Most people don’t realize panhandling is protected speech under the constitution,” says Weinberg, who successfully challenged a similar law in Chicago. A city spokesman says the city is open to alternatives.