Federal Panhandling Lawsuit Filed Against Charlottesville - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Federal Panhandling Lawsuit Filed Against Charlottesville

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NBC29 has new details about a federal lawsuit filed against the city of Charlottesville and it's law that limits panhandling on the downtown mall.

One member of city council is speaking out about the controversial code and we have also learned that the five plaintiffs named in the suit have had run-ins with the law before.

All five plaintiffs in the case have been arrested in the past, some multiple times, and now one city councilor is changing her mind on last August's vote which started all of this.

Charlottesville City Councilor Holly Edwards stated, "We were assured by the city attorney that it was a legal document."

With a pending federal lawsuit now facing the city of Charlottesville, Edwards says she has reconsidered her vote to change the panhandling code, "It moved the problem but it didn't solve the problem."

Edwards attended at news conference Thursday morning where details of the lawsuit were announced. Five homeless men are suing the city.

They say the change, preventing them from panhandling in certain areas along the downtown mall, violates their constitutional rights.

Earl McCraw, one of the plaintiffs, said, "We get harassed. We get either told to move or we get a ticket."

McCraw is one of the plaintiffs named in the suit and says life is hard enough without restrictions on asking for help, "Most of us set up to eat. A lot of us set up to eat. That's the only thing we know how to do."

But they're not necessarily the most sympathetic group. All five plaintiffs have criminal histories. John Jordan's wrap sheet is nine pages long and most of the charges are for drunk in public; Albert Clatterbuck charged with possession of cocaine; Michael Sloan with possession of marijuana; Christopher Martin with assault; and McCraw was found guilty of trespassing.

Dr. Rick Turner, who supports the lawsuit, stated, "A reassessment of the ordinance needs to be looked at."

At this point, the ordinance still stands, even after Councilor Edwards recently tried to sway the rest of council to change the ordinance, "Anytime there is a discussion about civil rights and civil liberties we need to take that seriously."

It was confirmed through the mayor of Charlottesville Thursday that there is no support on council to change the code. Aside from that, the city is declining to comment on the suit.

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