- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - The city of Cranston acknowledged that an ordinance that banned panhandling was unconstitutional, and it agreed to stop enforcing it as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought last year by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Under a consent judgment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Providence, the city also agreed to pay Michael Monteiro $1,500 in compensatory damages for pain and suffering caused by the city depriving his First Amendment rights. Monteiro was cited by police in June 2015 for soliciting donations at an intersection. The city will also pay $5,000 in legal fees and court costs.

The ACLU called it an important victory against the criminalization of poverty. It also said the outcome could help deter other cities from similar bans. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, a Democrat, agreed to stop enforcing the city’s ban on panhandling after the ACLU sent him a letter in January raising concerns about whether it was constitutional.

The city did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment on Thursday.

Monteiro, of Providence, is disabled and can no longer work. He said when the lawsuit was filed last year that he lives off disability checks that often run out before the end of the month.

When that happens, he would sometimes take the bus to Cranston to ask for donations at a traffic light, holding up a cardboard sign that reads “Disabled, Need Help, God bless.” He said he can only stand for around an hour and would collect around $20 to $30 each time.

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