The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court against the City of Colorado Springs, asking for an injunction of the new no-solicitation zone City Council approved Tuesday.
The lawsuit claims that the amendment to the city’s solicitation ordinance violates First Amendment rights to free speech.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Greenpeace, Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, Star Bar Players, The Denver Voice, James Binder, Ronald Marshal, Laurel Elizabeth Clements Mosley and Roger Butts.
The ordinance violates first amendment rights in two ways, Mark Silverstein, ACLU legal director, said in a press conference today.
First, he said, the legislation is not content neutral because someone can hold a sign saying “re-elect the mayor.” But someone holding the same size sign asking for donations to fight breast cancer would be violating the new law.
Second, he said the law is not narrowly tailored. He said people cannot be asked to go outside of the 12-block downtown city center to exercise their free speech rights.
“The downtown area is the area where our plaintiffs’ audience is,” he said, “the people who walk downtown.”
Beth Clements Mosley said she joined the lawsuit because she wants to be able to solicit for ticket sales for Star Bar Players and she feels like the effort to stop panhandling downtown is misguided.
“I have never been deterred from entering a business because homeless people were standing outside of it,” Mosley said. “Focusing on this won’t help downtown and if we think of this as a magic bullet, we won’t look at what we really need to do.”
Steve Saint, executive director of Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, said he opposes the new ordinance because it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue.
He said many of the people soliciting downtown are mentally ill and they need help. His organization is trying to raise money to build a farm for the mentally ill and has been asking for donations downtown.
Chris Melcher, Colorado Springs City Attorney, could not be immediately reached for comment.