PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Three people are suing the City of Portland over an ordinance that prevents people from panhandling in medians.
The suit was filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on behalf of the three plaintiffs. It alleges that the plaintiffs all spend time on medians for a variety of reasons, and that they have a constitutional right to do so.
The ordinance doesn't just prevent panhandling in medians. It bans any activity except waiting to cross the street. The ACLU says people have a constitutional right to stand on medians and express themselves.
"The city of Portland has put into place an overly broad ban on being in medians, and it's certainly not the place of a city government to tell people where they can and can't exercise their free speech" Rachel Healy of the ACLU of Maine said.
City spokesperson Nicole Clegg says the ordinance is intended to protect public safety, and city officials believe it is constitutional.
"This was a public safety issue in our opinion and we narrowly crafted the ordinance to satisfy our concerns, and also be in line with what we think were the restrictions related to the law" Clegg said.
The lawsuit did not come as a surprise to the city. The ACLU had stated that it would likely challenge the ordinance once it went into affect. So far, the city has not issued a single citation for standing in medians.