Victory! On October 23, 2015, U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock struck down the Lowell ban on panhandling.
In February 2014, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a First Amendment suit in federal court on behalf of three Lowell residents to block an anti-panhandling ordinance enacted by the City of Lowell, claiming the ordinance violated their constitutional right to peacefully solicit donations in public. The ordinance operated by creating buffer zones in which panhandling is prohibited. It prohibited panhandling in the entire downtown historic district, and it also prohibited panhandling within 20 feet of various locations throughout the city, including bus stops and restaurants. Among other things, we argued that the ordinance is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court's decision in McCullen v. Coakley, which invalidated a Massachusetts law creating buffer zones around reproductive health clinics.
- On Liberty: Federal judge strikes down Lowell's anti-panhandling ordiance and strikes a blow for speech equality
- The Guardian: When we ban begging we take away the first amendment rights of the poor
- MassLive: Federal judge says Lowell's anti-panhandling law violates free speech. How will Worcester's fare?
- Lowell Sun: Federal judge strikes down Lowell panhandling law
- WGBH: U.S. Court Allows Panhandlers To Return To Business In Lowell