Tag Archives: panhandling

Stop Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus’ war on the poor!

Homeles Coalition 2012
Opposing City Ordinance in 2012

By Gordon Davis

Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus’ bullying of the people of Worcester not to give donations to other people of Worcester (panhandlers) is problematic.

It was tried before by other City officials and failed. The failure led to the expensive lawsuit regarding “aggressive panhandling” which the City of Worcester will have to pay over $1,000,000 in legal fees!

First, let me say I have not noticed an increase in “panhandling” in Worcester. I have witnessed a person asking for help at the corner of Belmont and Shrewsbury streets being arrested on May 21, 2016. I suppose the police have not read the Supreme Court ruling.

This man asked me and others for donations on June 4 2016. He was polite, well groomed and thankful.

Going back to the same old failed policies as the City of Wprcester tried in the 2000s is problematic. Panhandling is a legal problem, a moral problem, an ethical problem and a social problem. It is a legal problem as the City Manager is using his governmental authority in an attempt to bully people. This issue of asking for help in public has been decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. People asking for help in a public place are protected from negative governmental actions. This might include City Manager Augustus speaking as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer and telling people it is better not to donate to “panhandlers.”I suppose it would be different if he said that was his “personal” opinion and not that of the City Manager.

It is unethical for City Manager Augustus to speak from the bully pulpit of his office attacking a group protected by the First Amendment.

It also might be unlawful and actionable.

It is a moral problem, as we have been taught to be charitable.

There are some things that government should stay out of. One of them is the bedroom. Another area government should stay out of is our choice of charitable giving. The government should not tell people to stop giving money to a church collection basket nor should it tell people to stop putting money into the coffee cup of a person asking for help in public.

It is a social issue, as not all of the charities are set up to help the homeless or others asking for help in public. When City of Worcester officials tried to get people to give money to charities and not to “panhandlers” in the 2000s several of the charities indicated that they had no programs for them.

At that time I asked the charities, “How do you intend to make sure that money that people wanted to go to the homeless or others asking for help in public get the money?”  

Their responses were that they intended just to keep the money for their ongoing projects.

The situation is the same today.

City Manager Augustus’ assertion that money given to charity will help the homeless and others seeking help in public is a pretext and a joke.

The City Manager’s response is not dissimilar to his response to the BlackLives Matter protesters. The Manager’s intimidation of the protesters and then the joke of the so called DOJ Race Dialogues did more harm than good.
I am not surprised that the gang of our three Worcester City Councillors – Gary Rosen, Konnie Lukes and Michael Gaffney – seems to support the City Manager’s continuation of the War on the Poor.

I am surprised that the City Manager has ignored his Jesuit training of Men and Women for Others. A training that emphasizes personal charitable works.  There is nothing charitable about the City Manager’s work at this time.

It would be a good thing to end homelessness. It is clear that our City government is unable and unwilling to do so. This is especially true when our City Councilors who are trying to help people are confronted by the bullying tactics of Billy Breault, Ed Augustus, and the Gang of 3. Mr. Breault made intimidating utterances to District 4 City Councilor Sarai Rivera who heads up the Council Sub-committee on Homelessness.

The issues of homelessness does not seem solvable within the present economic system. So it makes sense for those seeking help in public to, on their own, seek their respective solutions without negative governmental interference. 

Go, Gordon Davis, GO!!!!!

stop the war on the poor
Winter 2012

Stop the War on the Poor

By Gordon Davis
In November 2015 the Worcester “leaders” ‘ war on the poor was dealt a defeat. The Federal Appeals Court ruled that both of Worcester’s ordinances designed to curb panhandling were unconstitutional. 

Panhandling or the asking for help in public is a form of speech and is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

The Worcester ordinances were championed by Mayor Joseph Petty and Worcester City Councilor Michael Gaffney.  

Bill Coleman, the third mayoral candidate, did not advocate the use of state power against the poor. Sorry, Bill, but you and I know that nice guys and those who speak truth to power don’t usually finish first.

This is the ruling regarding begging on a traffic island by Judge Hillman. (Federal Appeal Court):

1. the City of Worcester’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 79) is denied; and
2. the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 82) is granted as follows10:
a. The City of Worcester Revised Ordinances of 2008, as amended through September 1, 201511, ch. 9, § 16 (Aggressive Begging, Soliciting and Panhandling) is unconstitutional in its entirety; and
b. The following provision contained in City of Worcester Revised Ordinances of 2008, as amended through September 1, 2015, ch. 13, § 77(a)(Crossing Ways or Roadways) is unconstitutional:
“No person shall, after having been given due notice warning by a police officer, persist in walking or standing on any traffic island or upon the roadway of any street or highway, except for the purpose of crossing the roadway at an intersection or designated crosswalk or for the purpose of entering or exiting a vehicle at the curb or for some other lawful purpose. Any police officer observing any person violating this provision may request or order such person the remove themselves from such roadway or traffic island and may arrest such person if they fail to comply with such request or order.”

Judge Hillman made it plain that he did not want to rule against the City, but his bosses in Supreme Court remanded it back to him with instructions to look at the Supreme Court ruling on the Lowell anti-panhandling ordinances. The Lowell ordinances were copied from Worcester ordinances – even down to the typos.

Judge Hillman tried to give the City some wiggle room when ruling the ordinance as unconstitutional.

He said he could rule on a more restrictive prohibition of anti-handling, such as no panhandling or sign holding on the rotary (that did not have crosswalks). Newton Square and Washington Square were specifically mentioned.

Please note that connection of the free speech of panhandlers and when they could be arrested by the police is now void.

This lack of police and City authority will likely present a problem for Judge Pellegrino, District Attorney Joseph Early and City Manager Ed Augustus in the Kelly Square 4 case. (It may be time for DA Early to think about dropping the charges.)

This war on the poor in Worcester goes back at least 10 years when the Worcester City Council wanted to penalize people who helped the poor and make the beggars go somewhere else. A group called “Real Solutions,” which had Kevin Ksen as its main driving force, was formed. Its slogan of “Target Poverty and Not People” is still relevant today.  It is not a surprise that Ksen was retaliated against by the City of Worcester for his activities with BlackLives Matter.

I am sure the folks who hate the poor, the beggars and the dark-skinned people will continue with their schemes to deny us our constitutional rights using the pretext of safety or beautification or something else.

There is some talk that the Worcester City Council will go into closed session to discuss a new war on the poor. I hope this does not happen. There is no need for a closed session. Just stop this war. Stop sending us to jail for unconstitutional pretext.

Drivers, Pedestrians and City Politics

By Gordon Davis
One of the issues debated by the Worcester mayoral candidates at Mechanics Hall during the election cycle was public safety. It came up several times in regards to crime, gangs and panhandling.

What never came up for discussion was pedestrian safety.

There has been what seems to be an increase in the number of pedestrians hit by cars and killed in Worcester. Just recently a pedestrian was killed on Chandler Street – he was hit by TWO vehicles.

We pedestrians have to worry about a lot when crossing Worcester streets. I am legally blind. I am dependent on cross walks and signaled pedestrian crossings to get around the City. Not only those with disabilities are dependent on cross walks and pedestrian crossing signals; many abled people need them to just walk from place to place.  Just look at the intersection of Foster and Front streets.

Recently, I was assaulted and battered by the occupant of a car that nearly ran me down at the intersection of Lake Ave. and Sunderland Road. I called the driver a “fucking asshole” and I continued to cross the street. A man from the car got out, followed me across the street, and hit me with a soda bottle.  There was a witness who called the police. We gave the police the license plate, but so far nothing has happened. I don’t think it is being taken seriously.

Pedestrians have become second class citizens in Worcester.

According to Massachusetts statutes drivers are required to YIELD to pedestrians, especially in cross walks and when there is a pedestrian signal activated.

It has been my experience that many drivers making turns on red do not even look for pedestrians. This is the case about half of the time at Lake Ave. and Sunderland Road. Even my sighted wife is hesitant to cross that intersection.

Some drivers do not look for pedestrians. Other drivers see pedestrians, but refuse to yield.

It is clear that City officials do not think this to be a serious issue, despite the numerous pedestrian injuries and deaths.

It seems the Worcester police will bend over backwards not to charge a driver with pedestrian accidents, instead looking to see whether the pedestrian was at fault.

I found it almost laughable, if it were not so sad, at the mayoral debate that Mayor Petty and Councilor Gaffney defended the anti panhandling ordinance based on the so called safety issue. It is especially remarkable that Councilor Gaffney had sympathy for the “mother and child” whose car strikes and kills a panhandler, as mother and child’s lives would be made miserable. Councilor Gaffney did not have the same sympathy for the panhandler. I am happy that candidate Bill Coleman did not get caught in that trap and spoke of helping homeless people.

There should be new legislation that makes it clearer that turning right on red through an activated pedestrian cross walk signal is prohibited.

Violations of this new statute would precipitate automatic tickets and at fault status. The penalties should be high enough to get the driving public to pay attention and yield to pedestrians.

To some extent there is a low-income and racial element to pedestrian deaths on Massachusetts and Worcester streets. Low-income people and a large proportion of so-called minority people do not have cars and are compelled to take buses and walk. Like with many issues in Worcester, we are not taken seriously.

This has to change. 

Take note, City of Worcester …

BOSTON – The U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts will consider today a motion for summary judgment in an American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts challenge to a Lowell ordinance that prohibits charitable requests both in Lowell’s Downtown Historic District and in numerous 20-foot buffer zones throughout the city. Kevin Martin, a partner at Goodwin Procter LLP who is litigating the case for the ACLU of Massachusetts, will argue the motion.

WHAT:  Arguments in McLaughlin v. Lowell, challenge to Lowell’s panhandling ban

WHEN:  Wednesday, October 7

WHERE:  Moakley Courthouse, Courtroom 1

WHO:  Kevin Martin of Goodwin Procter LLP presents arguments before Judge Douglas P. Woodlock

In February 2014, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a First Amendment suit in federal court on behalf of Lowell residents Kenneth McLaughlin and Joshua Wood, to block an anti-panhandling ordinance enacted by the City of Lowell (Lowell Code of Ordinances Chapter 222, § 222.15).

The ordinance prohibits panhandling in the entire downtown historic district, as well as within 20 feet of various locations throughout the city, including bus stops and restaurants.

The plaintiffs claim the ordinance violates their constitutional right to peacefully solicit donations in public.

The ACLU argues that the ordinance is unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decisions in McCullen v. Coakley, which invalidated a Massachusetts law creating buffer zones around reproductive health clinics, and Reed v. Town of Gilbert, which invalidated an Arizona sign code because it regulated signs differently depending on what they said.

Here, the ACLU argues that the Lowell ordinance impermissibly excludes one, but only one, type of speech.

“Poor people in Lowell, and unfortunately all over America, are being told that asking for money is not ‘really’ speech that deserves the same protection as other words spoken by wealthier people. Yet a request for charity is speech, nothing less and nothing more,” said Matthew Segal, legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts.

He continued: “The First Amendment protects rich and poor alike. Courts have ruled that free speech protects wealthy people who wish to spend money to express their ideas, and we must ensure that the same protection reaches poor people who wish to use actual words to express themselves.”

“Decisions from the Supreme Court and courts across the country have made it increasingly clear that there is no space in our democracy for laws criminalizing peaceful requests for charity in public places,” said Kevin Martin of Goodwin Procter LLP. “We hope that a decision for plaintiffs in this case will dissuade other cities considering adopting such laws from doing so.”

In June 2015, an order from the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the First Circuit’s unfavorable ruling on the ACLU’s challenge to two anti-panhandling ordinances in Worcester, and a new First Circuit decision in September struck down an anti-panhandling measure in Portland, Maine.

For more information about the case, McLaughlin v. Lowell (formerly Copley v. Lowell), go to:

For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to:

Panhandling allowed during Xmas

The City of Lowell has informed the American Civil Liberties Union and the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts that it is not currently enforcing Lowell Code of Ordinances Chapter 222, § 222.15, which prohibits all charitable requests in Lowell’s Downtown Historic District, pending a final decision by the Court on the merits of a constitutional challenge to the law.

As matters presently stand, therefore, Lowell residents will be allowed to panhandle peacefully throughout the City during the holiday season.

The City has agreed to announce its intentions with respect to enforcement change.

In February 2014, three men, Randy Copley, Kenneth McLaughlin, and Joshua Wood, assisted by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Goodwin Procter LLP, filed suit against the City of Lowell on the grounds that the Ordinance violated their rights to free speech, equal protection, and due process under the United States and Massachusetts constitutions.  The case is currently pending before Judge Douglas Woodlock.

A decision in the case is expected in 2015.

For more information about the lawsuit Copley v. Lowell, go to:


For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to:


Hooray!!! ACLU files federal suit to overturn Worcester anti-panhandling laws

Many courts have ruled peaceful panhandling is protected under the First Amendment, and selective enforcement has targeted the poor and homeless.

WORCESTER — The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit today in federal court in Worcester on behalf of three Worcester residents to block two anti-panhandling laws enacted by the City of Worcester, claiming the laws are unconstitutional and violate the right to peacefully solicit donations in public and to engage the public in political and other speech.

“The laws are intended to prevent so-called ‘aggressive’ begging, but in fact prohibit a great deal of peaceful conduct which is protected expression,” said Kevin Martin, a volunteer attorney from the law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, which is handling the case for the ACLU of Massachusetts.

One of the new anti-begging laws prevents people from doing such things as holding a sign asking for help starting a half-hour before sunset, or performing music while having a hat or cup for donations, or soliciting donations for any cause if they are within 20 feet of the entrance to a bus stop, theater, ATM machine, or any other “place of public assembly.”

“Numerous courts throughout the country have ruled that peaceful panhandling is protected expression under the First Amendment,” said Martin. “Whatever legitimate concerns exist concerning truly criminal conduct by a few individuals can be addressed using existing laws.”

The second law prohibits standing on traffic islands, a location favored for years by people soliciting donations and engaging in protected speech, including many Worcester-area politicians and their supporters, various churches, the Salvation Army, and firefighter organizations raising funds for charity.
The lawsuit contends that this law too is not justified by any safety concerns significant enough to override the constitutional protection for expression.

In addition to raising First Amendment claims, the lawsuit says that the City is violating the right to equal protection of the laws, by enforcing the two laws only against the homeless and other poor people who seek help for themselves.

“When these laws were being considered, the City Solicitor suggested police would ignore violations by politicians and focus enforcement on those begging,” said Chris Robarge, a Worcester-based organizer with the ACLU of Massachusetts. “And since the laws were enacted, the police have ignored traffic median protesters who were acting in violation of the law, yet they have arrested homeless people who did the same thing.”

For more information about the ACLU of Massachusetts, go to:

For a copy of the lawsuit, go to:

Couldn’t help thinking about Mayor …

By Rosalie Tirella

… Menino last night. That’s right, Boston’s Tom Menino, the guy the more erudite like to poke fun at for his not so grand elocution, not so slim girth, and maybe his not so WASP or Irish background.

But Menino is all perfectly wonderful Italian American! Wears his Italian roots on his shoe soles when he goes into Boston’s neighborhoods to cut ceremonial ribbons, meet with neighborhood groups … and goes out into the cold Boston streets, blankets in arms, handing them out to Boston’s homeless men and women and urging them to seek shelter in one of greater Boston’s homeless shelters.

A first rate mayor for a first rate city. A great American mayor for a great American city.

I thought of Boston’s mayor last night when the news broke: That two Worcester city council subcommittees, puny in spirit, the exact opposite of Menino, voted to clamp down on Worcester’s panhandlers. As if hustling them off to the side would make us a great city. As if getting tough with Worcester’s weakest citizens would make Worcester great, a little Boston.

Forget about it!!

The city council is being lead by real estate developers, money people, etc … . The city council is not serving the people who live, struggle and work in the city. It is as if the council were getting Wusta all perty and clean for the people of Holden. All the suburbanites who they hope to lure to Worcester for fun, drinks etc. Forget about solving our very real problems, such as lack of good paying jobs for unskilled folks, clean, safe, affordable housing for our inner city families.

It is all about cognitive dissonance. Pretending what we have here in Worcester doesn’t really exist.

Maybe if we pretend the problems didn’t exist, they would disappear!

Wish our subcommittees had disappeared last night!