Protesters fight Cranston panhandling ordinance, tickets

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Six protesters continued their fight Tuesday against Cranston’s panhandling ordinance and the tickets they received because of it.

Cranston Municipal Court was crowded as all six protesters pleaded not guilty before the honorable Chief Judge Matthew Smith.

Back in February, the city passed an ordinance forbidding people from standing in the road or median in order to collect money from drivers. The following month, a group of homeless advocates responded with a public display of panhandling.

“Above and beyond being unconstitutional,” said Meghan Smith, “it’s also just cruel and backwards.”

Smith was charged twice for the standing in the roadway.

“As I was being cited the initial time, a motorist pulled up along side us and asked what we were doing,” Smith recalled. “So I stepped over to give him a flyer to explain and the same officer who had given me the first citation did one of these and called me back to give me a second one.”

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said the ordinance was put in place to keep people safe and that it only applies to busy intersections.

“There’s absolutely no evidence there’s a legitimate public safety issue,” said Roger Williams University School of Law Adviser and protester, Andrew Horwitz.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) may file litigation in court challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance. Protesters who were ticketed are expected to be back in court on July 20.