Beggars sue, claiming Chicago police harassment

May 24, 2012

Associated Press

A federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of several panhandlers who allege Chicago police regularly chase them from a high-end stretch of Michigan Avenue.

The lawsuit contends panhandling is protected speech under the First Amendment, but police systematically intimidate and threaten to arrest them.

McArthur Hubbard, one of the eight plaintiffs, claims an officer told him on several occasions while he begged near high-end shops that he couldn't do it.

City laws prohibit aggressive panhandling tactics, described as unwanted touching, following people or using abusive language. Passively asking for donations, as the plaintiffs claim they were doing, is legal.

Chicago Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said Wednesday the city respects First Amendment rights. However, he couldn't comment on the lawsuit because it hadn't been seen by the city attorney.