Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law

Gary Rosen was out at Webster Square today, sign-holding and soliciting.


Since each vote Gary solicits has a monetary value, he’s in violation of Bill Eddy’s beloved anti-panhandling ordinance.

One might innocently assume that this was just Gary’s quiet protest of Bill Eddy’s persecution of the downtrodden, but Gary is actually also a supporter of the anti-panhandling law.


7 thoughts on “Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law

  1. Joe says:

    I’m not a huge fan of the anti-panhandling law (though I am glad it’s gotten kids and other fundraisers out of traffic).

    However, I think you’re way off base here:
    -they aren’t being “aggressive”
    -they aren’t leaving the sidewalk or median and entering traffic
    -they aren’t asking for money

    They aren’t breaking any law.

    • Nicole says:

      The city’s definition of “aggressive” includes asking someone within twenty feet of a bus stop. So the definition is much broader than the word implies.

      And a police officer would be well within his/her rights to ask Gary to move it along: “No person shall after having been given due notice warning by a police officer, persist in walking or standing on any traffic island or upon the roadway of any street or highway except for the purpose of crossing the roadway at an intersection or designated crosswalk or for the purpose of entering or exiting a vehicle at the curb or for some other lawful purpose.”

      I suppose it’s not breaking an ordinance (sadly, no Judas Priest song for that) unless the police tell you to move it along, but no police officer would. Because they know that if you told someone with a political sign to move it along, there would be a furore or a lawsuit.

      The City of Worcester decided that the speech of politicans is acceptable, and the speech of folks who beg is not. If Gary had a sign that said “Need $$$ for booze” (as he so eloquently put it), he wouldn’t be able to stand out there for hours.

  2. Joe says:

    So it sounds like as long at they are on the side of the road, not on a traffic island, they’re good?

    The cops should kick them off the islands- that’s a traffic hazard.
    I can’t tell from that picture exactly where Gary was standing.

    • Nicole says:

      No, they’re not good.

      The city defines “aggressive manner” as “soliciting any person within 20 feet of the entrance to or parking area of any bank, automated teller machine, automated teller machine facility, check cashing business, mass transportation facility, mass transportation stop, public restroom, pay telephone, or theatre or place of public assembly, or of any outdoor seating area of any cafe, restaurant or other business.”

      Most streetcorners where folks hold signs are within 20 feet of a bus stop.

      Rick Rushton had said at the time that “On sidewalk, people are still going to be able to ask for help.”

      But, of course, the ordinance pretty much restricts people to asking for help where there are no other people.

      • Joe says:

        Is there a definition of “soliciting” in the law?
        I guess I would not consider holding a sign and waving “soliciting”.

        • Joe says:

          “Solicit or Soliciting shall include using the spoken written or printed word bodily gestures signs or other means of communication with the purpose of obtaining an immediate donation of money or other thing of value the same as begging or panhandling and also include the offer to immediately exchange and or sell any goods or services”

          So there is your contention that a vote has monetary value (which I disagree with)- if it didn’t, signholders are not breaking the ordinance.

          Also, the “immediate” wording in the ordinance pretty clearly excepts signholders campaigning for a vote in the future from being charged under the ordinance.

          I am not saying if I’m for or against the ordinance- I’m just saying that these guys had enough sense to craft one that would not prohibit them from campaigning.

  3. Joe says:

    Looks like Judge Hillman might have something against political sign holders on traffic islands:

    “Judge Hillman gave a nod to an electoral process in which sign-holders descend upon rotaries, traffic islands, and intersections.

    “They are colorful, persistent, and, at times distracting. Rotaries and traffic islands are especially attractive venues for both political sign holders and those seeking to solicit for funds because of their clear sight lines and heavy traffic. They are also dangerous exercises in survival driving skills.” ”

    It’s not clear from the article exactly how this fits in with the lawsuit as a whole:

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