Is the City of Lafayette's “begging and soliciting money” ordinance aimed at curving panhandling a violation of the right to free speech? A local homeless man says "Yes", and is allegedly suing the city over it.

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Facebook, Douglas Menefee
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Homeless Man Suing City Of Lafayette For Violating His Right To Free Speech

A local homeless man, George K. Henagan of Lafayette, has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Lafayette, and the Lafayette Police Dept. after he was arrested for panhandling according to KLFY.

Henagan was arrested for violating the City of Lafayette's “begging and soliciting money” ordinance which he contends violates the First Amendment, his right to free speech.

According to KLFY, a court exhibit of a police report outlines Henagan's arrest in Lafayette for panhandling. In that email Henagan allegedly states that "the property owner to be on the property but "'they cannot be flagging vehicles and or walking in the street distracting drivers.'”  

As of now it is not known if the police report states if Henagan was flagging down or distracting drivers.

In the lawsuit, Henagan says he is homeless and unemployed and relies on donations from the public for support.

He argues that " if nonprofits and charitable organizations can solicit money to help those in need, then he has the right to ask for donations too" according to KLFY.

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The lawsuit reportedly takes issue with the City of Lafayette's "Simple Obstruction of a Highway of Commerce" and "Criminal Mischief" ordinances, claiming these ordinances are dangerously vague which leaves the door open to discriminatory enforcement.

According to KLFY, other defendants named in the lawsuit are "Mayor Josh Guillory, City Parish Attorney Gregory J. Logan, Chief Monte Potier, Lt. Scott Morgan and officer Joshua Myers."

What Exactly Is 'Free Speech'?

In a nutshell, "Free Speech" as protected by the 1st Amendment "supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction" as stated on Wikipedia.com.

Was George K. Henagan's arrest for panhandling indeed in violation of the First Amendment?

We'll have to wait to and see how this lawsuit plays out.

Lafayette Consolidated Government is allegedly asking the City of Lafayette to cancel the “begging and soliciting money" section of the ordinance.

There's a lot more to this story, and you can read more at KLFY.com.

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