By Christian M. Wade/The Tampa Tribune
A lawyer representing several labor unions is threatening to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against Tampa if it moves ahead with a citywide panhandling ban.
In a July 19 letter to Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the city council, Brandon-based attorney Thomas L. Johnson argues that a ban would violate his clients’ constitutional rights by restricting access to city roads to protest or hand out informational leaflets to motorists.
He asks the city to exclude non-commercial speech – protesters, passing out handbills and other interactions between pedestrians and motorists where no money changes hands – from any panhandling ban. He said courts have repeatedly struck down similar restrictions.