- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A federal judge has awarded a homeless couple $5,000 after they were forced to leave a small southeast Missouri town under threat of arrest.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. issued a consent judgment Tuesday against the city of Miner and an unidentified police officer. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in December on behalf of Edward Gillespie and Brandalyn Orchard.

The judge also ordered the city to pay attorney fees of $4,316.

The ACLU said the couple was standing at a busy intersection in September 2013 holding a sign that read, “Traveling. Anything helps. God bless.” A Miner police officer told them to leave or face arrest, citing a city ordinance prohibiting vagrancy, begging and loitering in the town of about 1,000 residents.

“Bullying is never good, but it is especially bad when done by our government and directed at those who might lack the resources to defend their rights,” Jeffrey A. Mittman, the ACLU of Missouri’s executive director, said in a statement.

The ordinance has since been revised.

City officials didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

Gillespie and Orchard are former Missouri residents now living in Maine.

Miner is near Sikeston, about 130 miles south of St. Louis.

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