ACLU threatens ‘possible litigation’ against Mississippi cities with panhandling bans

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SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- Begging for a handout is illegal in several Mid-South cities, but not if the ACLU can help it.

The civil liberties group is taking on 16 cities in Mississippi including Horn Lake, Southaven, Olive Branch and Clarksdale, that have some kind of ordinance against panhandling.

The ACLU sent letters to the mayors stating the ban is not only morally wrong but violates the first amendment.

"That's particularly problematic. In America, you shouldn't be required before speaking in a public space to get permission from the government," said Joshua Tom, ACLU of Mississippi staff attorney.

The letter lists former federal court cases backing their claims.

It reads, "harassing, ticketing and/or arresting people who ask for help in a time of need is inhumane and counterproductive," and "we call on the city to immediately repeal the ordinance and instead consider more constructive alternatives or risk potential litigation."

We reached out to the North Mississippi mayors who received the letter, but only the Horn Lake mayor responded. He said he gave the letter to the city attorney.

The ACLU is giving every city until September 11 to make changes, or they may sue.

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