The Everett City Council’s ordinance to curb aggressive panhandling is drawing criticism from homelessness and civil rights activists, but KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney isn’t sure how to feel.
“Right now it’s unclear to me how draconian this actually is because it doesn’t define ‘aggressive’ enough to know what aggressive panhandling is,” Tangney said.
The Daily Herald reports that the Everett council voted 4-2 Wednesday to make aggressive panhandling a misdemeanor punishable by jail or a fine. Aggressive panhandling is defined as begging in a way that is meant to make someone feel threatened. Ordinance will instruct police to work with property owners so they know their rights as far as prohibiting begging on their property. Tom asked whether this ordinance allows property owners to prohibit panhandle aggressively, or at all, on private property.
John Curley: I would assume, it’s private property. You have the right to throw anybody you want off your private property.
TT: If that’s the case, then what makes it aggressive?
The America Civil Liberties Union of Washington and Seattle University’s Homeless Rights Advocates Project sent the Everett Mayor and council letters asking them to reject the ordinance, calling the new law unconstitutional and unnecessarily punitive. According to the Herald, the previous city code already prohibited begging that either obstructs the free passage of people or causes someone to fear being harmed or victimized by a criminal act.
Curley also mentioned the idea of “soliciting without speech” — where someone can approach you and hold up the sign but not actually ask for anything. Curley likened it to the people who stand on the streets of Las Vegas, snapping baseball card-style papers promoting strip clubs or escort services.
“They just snap it in your face and then hand it to you, but they’re not allowed to talk,” Curley said.