LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – George K. Henagan of Lafayette says he’s homeless and was arrested for panhandling, which violated his right to free speech. The federal lawsuit was filed against the City of Lafayette and police department after he was arrested for panhandling.
Henagan’s complaint alleges if nonprofits and charitable organizations can solicit money to help those in need, then he has the right to ask for donations too. The plaintiff reports he’s homeless, unemployed and supported in part by donations from the public.
The Lafayette Consolidated Government is asking the city council Tuesday to repeal the entire code of ordinances section entitled “begging and soliciting money.” The attorney for the Lafayette Police Department, Joy Rabalais informs KLFY News 10 that it’s her policy not to comment on matters involving pending litigation.
People on the streets spoke up and gave their opinion about arresting a person for panhandling. Many didn’t believe it warrants an arrest. When asked if it would be a violation of freedom of speech to arrest a person for panhandling, a local resident said, “Well, they can stand and speak anywhere they want right, that is our right.”
In court Henagan’s attorney presented evidence of another person’s arrest for panhandling. The person was charged with criminal mischief and simple obstruction of a highway. Also, the lawsuit challenges the “Criminal Mischief ordinance. The complaint calls the ordinance vague encourages discriminatory and arbitrary enforcement.
The lawsuit finally takes aim at the ordinance ‘Simple Obstruction of a Highway of Commerce’ denies Henagan and other’s rights to engage in protected speech, amounting to an unreasonable restriction on time, manner and place.
Other defendants include: Mayor Josh Guillory, City Parish Attorney Gregory J. Logan, Chief Monte Potier, Lt. Scott Morgan and officer Joshua Myers.
The information officer for the LPD says “the police department does not make ordinances, we follow them.”