Montgomery panhandling lawsuit settled by city, SPLC

Rev. Shane Isner speaks as the Southern Poverty Law Center and local clergy and supporters hold a press conference denouncing the panhandling ordinance before the city council meeting at city hall in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday November 5, 2019.

The city of Montgomery has agreed to stop arresting or ticketing panhandlers and to drop outstanding municipal cases against people previously charged in a lawsuit settlement announced this week. 

Montgomery agreed to donate $10,000 to the Southern Poverty Law Center to be used on homelessness issues. In a press release, SPLC said they intend to donate the funds to Montgomery Pride United. 

More:Homeless plaintiffs sue Montgomery for using state begging and solicitation laws

The Montgomery City Council in July 2019 unanimously approved an ordinance requiring mandatory jail time for people who panhandle in the city, but the legislation sparked immediate blowback and then-Mayor Todd Strange did not officially sign off on the ordinance. Some city councilors then tried to add an amendment to the ordinance which would criminalize giving to panhandlers, but the amendment failed after dozens of people protested before the vote. 

Travis Jackson, who is apposed to the panhandling ordinance, holds a sign during the city council meeting at city hall in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday November 5, 2019.

In December 2019, newly elected Mayor Steven Reed pushed through a repeal of the ordinance, which the Montgomery City Council unanimously supported. 

But the repeal did not address Montgomery’s use of two state laws that criminalize begging and soliciting, plaintiffs alleged in a lawsuit filed in February by the SPLC,  ACLU of Alabama, and the National Homelessness Law Center. The groups also sued the county of Montgomery and the state over the same ordinances, both of which are still in litigation. 

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