Panhandlers sue Chicago cops for pushing them off Mag Mile

Panhandlers near Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus in downtown Chicago are suing the City of Chicago, accusing police of routinely pushing them off the high-profile Magnificent Mile.

The lawsuit alleges that the police are violating the panhandlers’ First Amendment rights.

Here is the story from the Sun-Times:

A group of eight panhandlers filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status Wednesday against the city, alleging Chicago Police regularly boot them from a ritzy stretch of Michigan Avenue downtown — a “whitewashing” that violates their First Amendment rights, they claim.

All eight live in Chicago and beg for money regularly on an affluent portion of Michigan Avenue between Oak and Erie streets, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court. They claim panhandling is protected speech under the First Amendment, but that police systematically intimidate and threaten to arrest them, falsely claming that panhandling on the Magnificent Mile is illegal.

“The City’s objective here is not difficult to fathom: it seeks to whitewash parts of Michigan Avenue of people who beg in order to ‘beautify’ the Magnificent Mile by segmenting the City’s public sidewalks into those available to the rich and those available to the poor,” the suit claims, accusing the city of “embracing short-term, bullying tactics in the name of commerce.”

One plaintiff, Kim Pindak, was kicked off Michigan Avenue on April 21 while begging on the corner of Delaware Street, the suit said. A female police officer told him panhandling was made illegal on the Magnificent Mile — a false claim, according to the suit — because “it is a tourist spot” and “there have been too many thefts.”

The female officer is named as a defendant in the suit, along with two other male police officers.

McArthur Hubbard, another plaintiff, claims one of the male officers told him on several occasions while he begged near Pearson and Michigan that “you can’t do that here. I will take you to jail, and I will take your money, and you can tell that to the judge.”