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Montgomery to halt arrests of panhandlers in settlement pact

November 28, 2020 GMT

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The government of Alabama’s capital city is settling a federal lawsuit with an agreement to stop arresting or ticketing panhandlers.

Al.com reports that Montgomery settled its portion of a lawsuit Tuesday with civil rights groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, and the National Homelessness Law Center.

The February lawsuit was also filed against Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor and Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham.

Montgomery agreed to cease enforcement for three years of two state statutes criminalizing panhandling. That will give courts time to determine whether the laws are constitutional.

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The suit was filed on behalf of people who had been arrested or cited for panhandling. They argued that their constitutional right to engage in free speech had been violated.

The lawsuit’s claims against Taylor and Cunningham are ongoing.

“The city of Montgomery is doing the right thing by ending its enforcement of Alabama’s inhumane and unconstitutional laws that criminalize homelessness and poverty,” SPLC staff attorney Ellen Degnan said in the Tuesday statement.

Al.com also reported that the city will give the SPLC $10,000 to benefit people who are homeless. SPLC will donate that money to Montgomery Pride United to provide emergency financial help to homeless people.