Flagstaff Cops Arrest 135 People in a Year for Panhandling; ACLU Says Begging Is Not a Crime

begging-change.jpg
via Flickr/Romeboy


For the past several years, the city of Flagstaff has been arresting homeless panhandlers in what's called "Operation 40" -- named after 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor.

After 135 arrests in one year for "loitering to beg," including the arrest of a disabled 4-foot-8, 77-year-old woman asking an undercover cop for $1.25 to cover a bus fare, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona has filed a lawsuit against city officials.

"Begging is not a crime," ACLU of Arizona legal director Dan Pochoda says in an announcement of the lawsuit.

The gist of the city's "Operation 40" is captured in a 2008 Arizona Daily Sun article that opens like this:
A street-level alcoholic urinates in a public park in front of children.

Or steals liquor from a local store.

Or sleeps in the doorway of a business.

All are common sights for Flagstaff residents and police.

In an effort to cut down on petty and serious crime, Flagstaff police started an operation at the beginning of the year aimed at getting law-breaking, alcoholic transients off the street earlier in the day.

The "loitering to beg" arrests rely on a state law criminalizing asking for money or food in public, which the ACLU contends is unconstitutional on free-speech grounds.

"This statutory provision selectively criminalizes requests for money or food," the lawsuit states. "A solicitation to vote for a candidate or attend a meeting, join an organization or eat at a particular restaurant, delivered in the same manner and tone as that for money would not result in arrest or prosecution under the provision."

The ACLU alleges the law "criminalizes protected speech and prohibits a substantial amount of protected speech," and is not narrowly tailored.

The ACLU's representing the woman mentioned above, Marlene Baldwin, as well as a man named Andrew Wilkinson, who claims he was threatened with arrest in 2012 after asking to eat someone's leftovers, and Robert George Jr., a military vet who claims to go hungry out of fear of going to jail for asking. The ACLU's also representing a collective called Food Not Bombs, as several of its members claim to have been threatened with arrest for requesting donations to feed the hungry.

The ACLU's seeking a permanent injunction to keep Flagstaff officials from enforcing the law.

Check out the lawsuit below:


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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.



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25 comments
sarum
sarum

http://www.magpictures.com/aplaceatthetable/

"If another nation was doing this to our children, we'd be at war."  Jeff Bridges, founder of the End Hunger Network.

(Another nations is doing this to our children - our politicians and "captains of industry" have all gone global and have no allegiance to any person(s) . . . )  if you can't listen to me listen to Paul Craig Roberts - 

"In the 21st century the two hundred year-old propaganda that the American people control their government has been completely shattered. Both the Bush and Obama regimes have made it unmistakenly clear that the American people don’t even influence, much less control, the government. As far as Washington is concerned, the people are nothing but chaff in the wind."

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2013/06/17/washington-is-insane-paul-craig-roberts/


Hunger In America’s Cities
http://www.takepart.com/photos/10-hungriest-places-america
Activist tells Moyers: Iowa Rep. King ‘pinning the problems’ of the country on the poor
http://realnewsnow.com/2013/06/activist-tells-moyers-iowa-rep-king-pinning-the-problems-of-the-country-on-the-poor/

analogqueen
analogqueen

ACLU says begging is not a crime- oh yes it IS a crime, hence the arrests. Guys, these aren't starving families, they are BUMS. I'd reckon 99% of them are thieves and criminal opportunists. We had two separate incidences of some really scary intimidating guys come right up to our CAR in traffic on Camelback and Central just this week. 


And for what it's worth, NO one is starving in the USA. NO one. They do NOT want food- they want cash, for drink or drugs- and nothing else. Quit sticking up for these thugs, they are crooks and not good people as you'd like to pretend that they are. I've watched them- they wait til they have enough change then hit up the Tango market on 7th Ave and Camelback to buy their dollar beer or Spice packets. They harass and intimidate the motel tenants next door, and threaten you when you don't give them anything. These people need to get lost, like forever. These are the folks the NWO calls "useless eaters" of the worst kind- and I tend to agree with them on that one.

sarum
sarum

I agree with what ACLU is doing in this case.  The government is trying to criminalize the poverty they intentionally and traitorously created.  We are going in a very bad direction.

heyroze
heyroze

What is wrong with society when someone,who cannot meet their basic needs is forced to resort to begging for food or spare change, is then arrested for doing so. How can these officers sleep at night and live with themselves? Why not try to refer these people to services and organizations that can help them? What about perhaps carrying around some simple sack lunches to hand out, instead of slapping handcuffs on? pbj, an orange, bottle of water.......how hard is it, really to reach out and offer someone some humanity.

sarum
sarum

Problem is many of the "beggars" in Maricopa county are obviously much better off financially than the people they are trying to threaten and intimidate into forking over monies they don't have.  I guess if you have embraced the cashless society concept it is wise to carry some coinage . . . ?  I don't see too many asking - I see them demanding with a threat.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... When Poverty is Outlawed, only Outlaws will be Poor.


yourproductsucks
yourproductsucks

Phoenix needs to start cracking down.  There are five bums on every freeway onramp seven days a week.

66rock
66rock topcommenter

Is that old scam "bus fare" still around? I haven't heard that tired old one for awhile now.  Even with my own background in volunteering in food distribution to the poor, I am very weary of not being able to go anywhere without being hit up for money.  I can't get in or out of my car at a drug store or grocery parking lot anywhere in the East Valley, without someone in my face asking if I have any change for them.  I believe that is a public nuisance issue and should be curtailed. 

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

Hey, begging is a respectable job - hell, if every Church pastor and Salvation Army bell ringer can do it, why can't we?  I'd say that was religious persecution against non-religion types.

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

To hell with the First Amendment, this violates the principles of basic humanity.

sarum
sarum

@analogqueen uhhhh . . . you are so wrong.  Yes people are really hungry and very grateful when we buy them a McDonald's meal.  Many suffer at home in silence while Michelle Obama puts only diet snacks in schools kids are panhandling on their way to school hoping to buy the breakfast they need out of the machine which now will not have enough calories to get them through to lunch.  Many no longer have cars, phones or internet and cannot go to mobile food pantry.  May not be well enough to walk to store.  Do not have enough income to hire cab, rent car . . . you are so clueless.  Careful with that "useless eater" term - myopic cracked cranial stiffs like yourself are prime candidates for the un-human, in-humane designation. . . . drip drip drip . . . drip . . .   

I am sure so many people said I want to beg on the street when I grow up . . .  . . drip drip drip. . . .It's so easy to make money begging and having all that judgmental negativity thrown at you . . . . . drip . . . drip . . . drip

sarum
sarum

Paycheck to paycheck and food stamp to food stamp: Study finds 3 out of 4 Americans are one financial emergency away from being out on the street.

http://www.mybudget360.com/paycheck-to-paycheck-food-stamp-to-food-stamp/

Yes there is something horribly wrong.  But you passing judgement on people who post to this site is as assumptive as the beggars and scam artists presuming that EVERYBODY else has XTRA to give.  Come to the library some day.  Look at the shabby people who spend their days on the internet at the library.  Some don't look bright enough to manage a keyboard either - surprise surprise!  Occasionally some really hoity toity looking types down on their luck also come to use library internet.   Vestiges of past wealth still remain and are no indicator of current status.



heyroze
heyroze

@sarum where do you see these "threats" all I receive are "thank you m'am" when I give food or cash.

heyroze
heyroze

@66rock you believe people being homeless, hungry, wanting to ride the bus to get out of the elements is a public nuisance issue? Wow. Sure hope the lady Karma comes knocking at your door soon. What is wrong with you?

sarum
sarum

@heyroze @sarum Pretty much everywhere not Scotchdale.  At many stores they hang in the parking lot - away from the front door.  Even my local Safeway has occasional recognizable begging artists who seem to wisely rotate locations.  So we know they have cameras should the threat materialize - doesn't mean a human being is ready willing and able to render aid.  Even had extremely well dressed young Roma woman with brand new salon nails and brand new everything else and 3 babies as props in shopping cart try to scam us.   If you have white hair the male thugs offer to liberate your funds free of charge.  Unfortunately race does seem to play into this on occasion.  My husband is still hearty looking enough that he just smiles and invites them to come and get it - who is first?  

66rock
66rock topcommenter

@heyroze @66rock  What? Well that's a new one, I'm usually called a bleeding heart over on Az Central because people there know me a little more about me and my real name. They know I'm a mom and that I have done a lot of work with women finding them safety and shelter, especially abused women.  But here are you, Assuming that I don't care about people and telling me what I believe, how dare you!  You don't know me, what I have done or what I believe. Do not put words in my mouth. By the way you are clueless if you think they all want bus fare to get out of the elements, clueless. Then you "hope the lady Karma comes knocking at your door soon"? That's just evil and stupid.  You do not know what tragedy that I've experienced or anyone else's life.   BTW, my post stands, it was a honest post of what I experience constantly in parking lots unloading my grocery,etc every single week. They get right up in my face, it is scary and unpleasant and they do it in broad daylight.  Some stores like Walgreens has been very good about curtailing it, others like my two local supermarkets and WalMart have not. I go to the book store at Tempe marketplace and have never once had it happen because that parking lot has good security presence.  That is my experience and it has nothing to do with not helping others.  In your own words, What is wrong with you?

sarum
sarum

@heyroze @66rockSome of us simply do not have enough extra to give to all of them.  We also are very aware that we could be them easily.  People who work for charitable organizations generally don't have much extra unless perhaps they are CEO so u needn't be judging character with ASSumptions.   Occasionally we sense one really hungry and purchase meal at nearest fast food place.  Not something we can afford for ourselves regularly.  If I had the extra  $ and did not feel intimidated I would not mind but most Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness anymore.  Someone here tried to shame me - shut me up - stating that if I had "planned well" I would not be in this position.  Nobody can plan for government approved banksterism.  I have no shame.  I did the best I could with what was on my plate.  I will also not belittle those on the street begging.  I just don't like them assuming that everybody is able to give or that intimidating and threatening is acceptable.

Paycheck to paycheck and food stamp to food stamp: Study finds 3 out of 4 Americans are one financial emergency away from being out on the street.
http://www.mybudget360.com/paycheck-to-paycheck-food-stamp-to-food-stamp/

Whose sock puppet are you "heyrose"?  Take your shaming ignorant judgemental ways elsewhere.

wtfok
wtfok

@heyrozeSalon nails are recognizable and need maintenance OFTEN.  Someone with recently done fake nails is certainly questionable along with the brand new cut and color and kinda stupid to hit up someone who obviously has not afforded even a haircut in years and has to wear flip-flops.  

sarum
sarum

@heyroze @sarum You are correct but I also mentioned that occasionally we do purchase food for people despite we cannot afford it and I'll just say that constant exposure creates "antennae." 


Once again you show much ASSumptiveness and play the shame game.  Take your hate somewhere else sock puppet.  "Solid proof?"  What you want me to take a cell phone photo and post it here?  I don't HAVE a cell phone SOCK PUPPET.

How nice for you that you live in an area where the hungry and homeless are not threatening yet.  In most areas they ARE.


heyroze
heyroze

@sarum @heyroze judgmental much? You KNOW these people are scamming because _________________. You haven't offered any solid proof that you witness these occurrences,a nd since when do poor people have to "look" poor. How do you know they aren't poor? How do you know their circumstances. What about the young woman? What if she did have a nice lifestyle and was left behind by a run away spouse and left penniless and on the street? It happens, all the time! I am not stating that these things can't or don't happen, make no mistake. My point is that the majority of people that I personally render aid to are polite, offer a thank you. It's not up to us to judge others. How nice that you must live in a world where hunger and homelessness play no part of your daily life. Yet how sad for you that you don't seem to care. You're part of the problem, not the solution. 

sarum
sarum

@heyrozeHey ASSHAT!  You have no IDEA what I do.  Your ASSumptions makes you part of the problem.   No U still don't "get it." I don't feel sorry for myself.  I work my hind end off to stretch what little we do have so that we might afford the Rx that keeps one family member alive.  Most months we canNOT afford it so STFU u ignorant hatemonger.

heyroze
heyroze

@sarum @heyroze @66rock I am unemployed and have a roof over my head at least......so the least i can do is offer what I do have a little extra off.....food, change, extra clothes, water bottles......to those who live on the streets. If you have a home and something to put in your mouth every day guess what? you are far better off than our brothers and sisters on the streets. I myself am struggling and currently don't have enough income to meet my out go. I do get unemployment but that was cut due to the sequester......so yeah I get it, But again, since I am not on the streets.........I am in a position to help those that are. So instead of feeling sorry for yourself, feel blessed and get out and do something for others instead of feeling sorry for yourself. Solution or problem, its up to you. 

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