Our View

Our View

ACLU threats keeping panhandlers in business

Well, it appears that every effort by city leaders throughout Arkansas, including West Memphis, to curtail annoying harassment perpetrated by groups of beggars knocking on our vehicle windows, staring at us with cardboard signs claiming to be “homeless” and begging for financial handouts may just succumb to liberal federal judges being cheered on by the radical bunch associated with the leftist American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas.

Several cities throughout the state have had to rescind their current ordinances pertaining to loitering, solicitation and public nuisance following threats by the ACLU of federal litigation.

West Memphis, for example, suspended its ordinance pertaining to not only solicitation on city streets but also door-to-door solicitation, a common annoyance among residents.

It was just last November, a federal judge in Little Rock, invalidated part of an Arkansas law that banned public begging, claiming it was unconstitutional.

Then just recently, this same radical organization challenged this year’s legislative rewrite of the disputed section, which the attorney general’s office conceded was unconstitutional.

The ACLU contends in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Little Rock that the new law, which went into effect recently, “has the exact same effect as the previously invalidated law.”

In a Nov. 22 ruling, a U.S. District judge permanently enjoined law enforcement officers across Arkansas from enforcing the law that had been in effect for more than 30 years. That law made it illegal for a person to “linger or remain in a public place or on the premises of another for the purpose of begging.

The only good that has come out of this District judge’s ruling was the part of the law that prohibits lingering or prowling under circumstances “that warrant alarm or concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity” without identifying oneself and giving police a “reasonably credible account” for being there; lingering in or near a school building without having responsibility for, or a custodial interest in, a student; and lingering for purposes of illegal gambling, drug dealing, drinking or distributing alcohol, spying on someone or otherwise invading their privacy; and lingering near an automatic teller machine without legitimate purpose.

The persistence of the ACLU and their latest lawsuit has put pressure on the federal court to declare the state’s newly worded ban on panhandling unconstitutional and halt its enforcement.

The ACLU has been getting a considerable amount of press lately by the liberal media which raises the question as to the rights of the majority of Arkansans fed up with such unnecessary and uninvited harassment?

While we fully support our constitutional rights there comes a point when there is a fair and equitable balance as far as the rights of those individuals who don’t want to be placed in a position of having to deal with sometimes aggressive and annoying beggars.

Unfortunately, until we can be represented by federal judges with more of a conservative opinion we’re going to continue to find ourselves on the losing side of their judicial rulings.