PRESS CONFERENCE: FREE SPEECH ON THE PED MALL
Iowa City, IA – On June 1, 2010, Iowa City Council will be considering a third reading to reduce the free speech zone of the Ped Mall to appease business interests that lobbied its members. We find this to be abhorrent to the 1st amendment Rights of all Iowa Citians and ask the City Council to reconsider passing this ordinance. On June 1st at 6:30 pm in front of City Hall, Citizens United for Free Speech will have a press conference to present our side of the story. Members of Iowa Citizen's for Community Improvement, the ACLU, the Bill of Right's Coordinating Committee, FAIR!, as well as street performers and fund-raisers for non-profit groups who will be affected by enacting a more rigorous "aggressive panhandling" ordinance will also be on hand.
As of the release of this notice, the current ordinance has not resulted in the citation or arrest of one person that it was intended to address. Our group is calling for a review of the enforcement of the current ordinance and asks the City Council to delay the last reading of the ordinance until more facts that would justify the action are presented by those who desire the law changed. We will share our survey results (see: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/J6LHR7G) that shows few Iowa City residents or visitors find the Ped Mall to be a dangerous place or unappealing to visit and because the impact for any group seeking goodwill donations will be permanently impacted by the Council's decision, believe this is a "solution seeking a problem."
Last month, the Mayor of Seattle, Washington, Bill McGinn, noted about the aggressive panhandling bill that he vetoed and his City Council backed up, "Although being asked for money on the street can be uncomfortable, it isn't illegal and the Supreme Court has said repeatedly that this is protected speech." He also noted his concern that the law would be leveraged unfairly against those who were perceived to be a threat. We share his concerns.