After ACLU suit, Fort Collins temporarily changes panhandling laws

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The City of Fort Collins is rolling back some of its most stringent rules against panhandling after a lawsuit was filed by the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU, which filed a suit in February, argued the rules against panhandling violate a person's freedom of speech.

On Friday, Fort Collins officials met to discuss an emergency review of the 1995 ordinance. A hearing was set to be held on Monday in federal court but has since been vacated. The City of Fort Collins is keeping certain measures in place, among them:

  • Intimidating, threatening, coercive or obscene panhandling conduct that causes the subject to reasonably fear for his or her safety;
  • Panhandling using fighting words;
  • Knowingly touching or grabbing the person solicited; and
  • Panhandling in a manner that obstructs the passage or the person or requires him or her to take evasive action to avoid physical contact.

“The City of Fort Collins has taken a positive and welcome first step by repealing the provisions of its panhandling ordinance that have been challenged by the ACLU and our clients, who engage in nonthreatening, nonaggressive requests for charity that are fully protected by the First Amendment," said a spokesperson for the ACLU of Colorado.

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