- Associated Press - Friday, July 21, 2017

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) - Six people who protested a city ordinance prohibiting panhandling on Cranston’s busy roads have been found guilty of violating the ban.

In March, advocates for the homeless panhandled and distributed fliers at a busy intersection during an afternoon rush hour in protest of the new ban.

The Providence Journal reports (https://bit.ly/2gQ0yKs ) that six of them were found guilty Thursday of violating the ordinance. The fine for each violation was $85.

Municipal Court Judge Matthew B. Smith said that by their own admission, the six entered the road to solicit contributions.

Megan Smith, an outreach worker who was cited twice, said she wanted to make a statement that people have the right to ask for help. The defendants plan to appeal to Superior Court.

The new ban was approved by a 5-4 City County vote in February as what supporters called a safety measure after the city acknowledged last year that its 2015 panhandling ban was unconstitutional. The city agreed to settle an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging that ban and to stop enforcing it.

On Tuesday, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that the new ban violates the First Amendment.

Mayor Allan Fung responded by saying the ordinance was narrowly tailored to prevent dangerous circumstances on busy roads, and said he is prepared to defend it in court.

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