Judge: No Injunction Against Worcester Panhandling Ordinances

A federal judge on Thursday refused to temporarily prevent Worcester from enforcing a pair of ordinances that restrict panhandling.

One of the laws bans aggressive begging or soliciting. The second outlaws people from standing in traffic circles or on medians.

The plaintiffs – two homeless residents of Worcester and a school committee member – are represented by the ACLU’s Kevin Martin.

“Certainly if somebody is acting aggressively in the course of panhandling, that’s something that the city could legitimately regulate. We think, however, that if you look at existing laws, which apply to other aggressive behavior, those could be enforced against panhandling, as they could be enforced against anybody who’s acting obnoxiously or in a criminal manner,” Martin says.

But U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman writes that the city had legitimate reasons – including safety – for passing the ordinances. He says those reasons “outweigh” the plaintiff’s interest in having an “unfettered right to solicit in public areas.”

While Hillman denied the ACLU’s request for an injunction, the lawsuit continues. Martin says he expects a trial to be scheduled for next year.

New England Public Radio’s Brianda Reyes and Sam Hudzik contributed to this story.

Judge Hillman’s order