Greenpeace adds name to panhandling suit

A nonprofit group known for their work to conserve marine life is jumping aboard a complaint lodged against Grand Junction for its recently approved panhandling ordinance.

Greenpeace is following in the footsteps of a lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union against Grand Junction, claiming that wording in the panhandling ordinance is too broad and can restrict the right of free speech. Greenpeace filed the complaint in Colorado’s U.S. District Court on Monday. The group contends that members of its organization could not solicit donations from people on Main Street and at Colorado Mesa University without running afoul of the city’s panhandling ordinance.

“When soliciting donations on the campus of Colorado Mesa University, as Greenpeace has done in the past, canvassers will be within 100 feet of a school. Additionally because there are bus stops and ATMs throughout most downtown areas, Greenpeace expects that soliciting donations on Main Street will place some canvassers within 100 feet of an ATM or a bus stop,” the complaint reads. “Because of the challenged ordinance, Greenpeace is forced to choose between, (a.) following through on its outreach and fundraising plans while violating the ordinance; or (b.) complying with the ordinance and foregoing the exercise of constitutional rights.”

Grand Junction city councilors on March 19 unanimously passed an ordinance intended to ban aggressive panhandling.

Grand Junction’s panhandling ordinance limits the times of day, the locations and the manner in which someone is allowed to panhandle.

It also bans solicitors from stepping into state or federal highways to ask for or accept donations.

The ordinance was slated to go into effect March 23 but a federal district court judge temporarily blocked a portion of the ordinance from being enacted, in response to the lawsuit waged by the ACLU.

U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer ruled on March 21 that the temporary blockage of the ordinance applied only to the portion of the ordinance that deals with solicitors asking for donations on public roadways, and state and federal highways.

The ACLU in its complaint argued that the ordinance could apply to all panhandlers, even those passively asking for donations by holding a sign.

The Grand Junction Police Department has stated it will not enforce the aggressive panhandling ordinance, and the city has advised the department not to enforce it.

Greenpeace’s complaint further states that the organization typically sends out four to five people to stand in public areas that have plenty of foot traffic, calling out to potential donors to talk about the group’s mission and request a donation. Canvassers do not collect cash donations but ask interested folks to contact the call center and become a member by paying with a credit card.


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