OKLAHOMA CITY - Following today's 10th Circuit Court of Appeals victory in McCraw, et al. v. City of Oklahoma City, also known as the anti-panhandling ordnance case, finding “Oklahoma City’s medians are traditional public fora,” the ACLU of Oklahoma issued the following statements:
The following is attributable to Joseph Thai, Presidential Professor of Law, Lead Counsel:
“The federal appeals court vindicated our position that Oklahoma City violated the free speech rights of citizens when it criminalized the time-honored practices of standing on medians to campaign for votes, fundraise for charity, or panhandle for necessities.
The City has no power to ban people from peacefully speaking to each other in the public square. Mass protests for racial justice and equality have demonstrated the critical importance of respecting our First Amendment freedoms if our country is to preserve its democratic character.
Unfortunately, the City has squandered four years of legal work and likely hundreds of thousands in attorney's fees defending its unconstitutional attempt to sweep panhandlers out of sight. The City should have devoted those taxpayer resources to addressing the root causes of poverty in our communities.”
The following is attributable to Megan Lambert, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Oklahoma:
“Today is an enormous victory for the people of Oklahoma. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals stated unequivocally that people have the right to express themselves in public places. Today’s ruling affirms what we already know – city medians located in the heart of the public square are spaces where people can communicate and exchange ideas, and Oklahoma City’s anti-panhandling ordinance is an unconstitutional violation of that First Amendment right. Whether campaigning for a political candidate, advocating for a cause, soliciting for life-sustaining funds, or protesting police brutality, all Oklahomans have the First Amendment right to speak from public medians.
As the last few months have shown, speech in public spaces is a quintessential part of public discourse and social change. The right to speak from medians, located at the center of many public spaces, was affirmed today. We stand with Black Lives Matter and countless others who gather and speak out against injustice on city medians and in other public spaces, and we will continue to fight to protect their right to do so.”