Busting an Old Lady for Asking for Bus Fare Gets Flagstaff, Arizona Sued

PanhandlerPublic DomainI enjoyed the years I lived in Flagstaff. Being able to snowshoe or mountain bike from the front door of my rented condo into the forest was a very pleasant way of breaking up a telecommuting day. Bicycling to one of the brewpubs in town wasn't too shabby, either. But, like a lot of college towns, Flagstaff's elected leaders considered leaving people alone to live their own lives to be an archaic practice best left to the rubes. The city has a formal 25-year plan for how the city should look in the future, the dynamic flow of life be damned. When it became clear that displaying naughty bits (whether your own or somebody else's) for money was a viable business venture in an area desperate for economic opportunity, urban leaders decreed the necessity of intrusive background checks and licensing. And now Flagstaff faces a lawsuit after rather too enthusiastically tossing people in the pokey for criminally asking passers-by for spare change.

Flagstaff set the scene for the current lawsuit when it crafted "Operation 40" in 2008. The Arizona Daily Sun reported at the time, "In an effort to cut down on petty and serious crime, Flagstaff police started an operation at the beginning of the year aimed at getting law-breaking, alcoholic transients off the street earlier in the day." To the end of ridding the city of "alcoholic transients," the city set about strictly enforcing "all petty violations committed by street alcoholics, Boughner said. Those offenses include: Panhandling, drinking in public, trespassing, littering, urinating in public and disorderly conduct." Specifically, the city is making a lot of arrests for "loitering to beg."

Admittedly, Flagstaff has more than a few merry tipplers roaming the streets. Aside from its home-grown drunks (and me, on occasion), it's the nearest booze-serving settlement to the officially dry Navajo reservation. But, not surprisingly, arrests seem to have scooped up more than a few "alcoholic transients."

From the ACLU of Arizona:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona today filed a lawsuit on behalf of an elderly Hopi woman who was arrested for begging in Flagstaff and a volunteer-run organization that feeds the hungry, claiming the City of Flagstaff’s effort to rid city streets of beggars is unconstitutional and criminalizes peaceful panhandling in public places. ...

In addition to Baldwin, the ACLU also is representing Robert George and Andrew R. Wilkenson, both of whom were threatened with arrest and are now afraid to exercise their right to peacefully solicit, and Food Not Bombs, a volunteer-run organization that regularly feeds the homeless in local city parks.  Several of its members have been arrested for requesting donations from passersby.

The ACLU points out that laws against "aggressive panhandling" have been upheld, but Flagstaff is now busting people just for opening their mouths and asking for change. Baldwin was arrested for "asking an undercover Flagstaff Police Officer if he could spare $1.25 for bus fare." That's not a shocker considering that a 2011 police blotter item reported the arrest of a woman who "approached one of the officers and offered to sell him jewelry she had made. When he declined, she asked for money."

The ACLU argues that a flurry of 135 arrests of this sort over one year in the small city is "violating people’s free speech rights by arresting them for peacefully soliciting donations in public."

Don't expect the city to back down. When people complained about background checks and licenses for adult entertainment, city council member Norm Wallen (a busybody of the first order) was shocked that anybody could object. "Other than being offended by a stigma, I’m not sure what the employees are objecting to."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Warrren||

    Cops are gonna cop.

  • SweatingGin||

    I wanted to make some tasteless jokes, but this article is just a mini nut-punch.

  • Warrren||

    You have small balls?

  • An0nB0t||

    Mini nut-punch, not mini-nut punch.

  • SweatingGin||

    I was very careful with the hyphen.

  • Warrren||

    I have shamed my family.

  • SIV||

    Bicycling to one of the brewpubs in town wasn't too shabby, either.

    How cosmopolitan.

  • ||

    The stout at Flagstaff Brewing Company is worth your time.

  • Zeb||

    You know, some people actually do enjoy using bicycles as transportation and aren't trying to be fashionable or make a statement.

  • sarcasmic||

    People asking for charity goes against the principles of fairness and equality, because not everyone will choose to give. Charity will be given out unequally and unfairly, as some who have more don't give while many who have little give a lot.

    People are stupid.

    So voluntary charity must be outlawed. This way if someone is receiving charity, the funds will have been acquired fairly and equally, based upon envy and greed.

  • SweatingGin||

    Take off "envy and greed", and post it to Kos or DU. Maybe add "altruism of the political class". Might not be subtle enough.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's a sad day when sarcasm can pass as seriousness depending on the reader.

  • sarcasmic||

    By the way, I sweat Canadian whiskey instead of gin. Gin smells. I like the stuff, don't get me wrong, but is really does smell. For a day or two after drinking it. Like eating garlic and smelling like it for days. It's messed up.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Crown Royal?

  • ||

    I haven't experienced that. Clearly I haven't had enough gin in one sitting. Time to drink...for science!

  • SweatingGin||

    I previously posted occasionally as SweatingBourbon. I switch back and forth a lot.

    I don't get as much of a smell from the gin, I don't think. Don't think I smell like a Christmas tree, anyway.

    The Campari, though.

  • ||

    If you want to sweat gin and Campari I suggest drinking a lot of negronis. Mmmmmmmmm.

  • Greg F||

    People asking for charity goes against the principles of fairness and equality, because not everyone will choose to give.

    You got it all wrong. The real problem is the charity is income which most likely won't be declared. And even more important, the lack of a government drone middleman taking a cut cannot be tolerated.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Aggressive panhandling is annoying.
    Was she actively asking or just holding a sign?

  • Locke||

    Now this is interesting. I actually live in Flagstaff. Being accosted by creepy drunk Indians DOES get old after a while. I would think maybe ending prohibition on the Rez would take care of that, but seriously. The transients here aren't generally nice, friendly folks. They're constantly abusive, often violent, have been known to shit or puke on the bus at times, throw their emty tall boy cans of Bud Lite and tiny liquor bottles everywhere. So... I'm on the side of civil liberties, but also on the side of not having to put up with this bullshit on a daily basis.

  • SweatingGin||

    I'm sorry I threw those bottles at you, okay?

  • General Butt Naked||

    So... I'm on the side of civil liberties, but also on the side of not having to put up with a this bullshit d-bag from Flagstaff yammering on about dumb shit on a daily basis

    There oughta be law!

  • Locke||

    Actually I think this problem would be reduced quite a bit by repealing the laws on the Navajo reservation prohibiting alcohol

  • Locke||

    And there already are laws concerning littering and breaching the peace. Those laws should be enforced, but I don't support arresting people for just panhandling

  • ||

    Should laws against littering be enforced? Or should the city just do its job with our tax dollars and clean the streets? If they insist on making as much land public as possible, I insist on treating it as a private establishment (think movie theater or ballpark), where my trash left behind is just par for the course and they pay people to clean it up.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    So you are a slob then?

  • Locke||

    I mean, asking for change is one thing, constantly harassing passers-by or bus riders is another.

  • Warrren||

    What if they ask for hope & change?

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    I've never seen anyone post this here before, but I just came across this little nugget on "RationalWiki" under the Reason page:

    The comments section on Reason.com's "Hit & Run" page rivals Yahoo! News and YouTube for being the worst hive of scum and villainy on the Internet, and provides plenty of evidence to conclude that Web 2.0, with its "anyone can comment on anything" archetype, perhaps isn't such a good idea.

    The Hit & Run comments model was originally intended as an unmoderated free speech zone, but by April, 2012, the area had become overrun by trolls, sock puppets, spoofers, pornographers and malcontents, rendering it unpleasant and chaotic even by, e.g., Reddit's low standards of decorum. Later that month Reason administrators finally acknowledged that utopian anarchy doesn't work very well in the real world, and they imposed a new registration system for the comments section. An updated disclaimer states: "We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time."

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    Despite this entreaty to civility, Hit & Run's reader commentary remains -- in keeping with anarchistic principles -- uncivil, disorderly and almost entirely off-topic at all times. However, and despite the claim that comments are unmoderated, ideological dissidents are now routinely censored, IP-banned and "disappeared," Chile-style, in the Hit & Run chatrooms, to the general -- albeit grudging -- approval of the still-devoted anarcho-libertarian commentariat. Whoops

  • Irish||

    It's hilarious because it's a lie. I've never seen anyone banned for dissenting opinions. The only people they ban are legitimate racists.

    Hasn't Tony been here for like 5 years? If anyone was going to be banned for ideological disagreement it would be him.

  • SIV||

    Nick Gillespie isn't going to ban himself!

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    ZING!

  • ||

    hyuk hyuk hyuk

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    Imagine a battalion of Tony's, multiplying like wet Gremlins and cranking out misinformation around the clock on a self-described "rational" website...it's harrowing.

    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

  • SweatingGin||

    The list of bans is pretty much Mary, White Indian (also Mary), and American, right? Has there been anyone else? They don't even block anonbot.

  • PapayaSF||

    They don't even block anonbot.

    Which they should, along with the other spammers. (Sorry, one of the ways in which I am an imperfect libertarian is a hatred of spammers.)

  • Irish||

    Obviously they should block anonbot. However, the fact that they don't even block a fucking spambot pretty much destroys Rational Wiki's contention that they're block happy and keep out dissenting opinions.

  • SweatingGin||

    I've spent years fighting spammers (email, and other blog spam bots)

    Anonbot has a special place in my heart for all the crazy sayings. For that, a quick, merciful death.

  • Irish||

    You're just enamored with his bean footage. Take your perversions elsewhere.

  • Warrren||

    That jesuit makes semens, dude!

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Off topic?

    WHY I NEVER!

  • ||

    They say it like it's a bad thing.

  • ||

    Yes, because the same site that allowed White Indian to post literally 14 hours a day, every day, hundreds to thousands of times a day for what seemed like several eternities, runs the place with a brutal whip hand.

    Going to guess sight unseen that this "RationalWiki" has some association with the freethoughtblogs/"skeptic" community.

  • Irish||

    It's basically run by them. As always, they are remarkably unskeptical of anything left-wing.

  • Paul.||

    Drunk!

  • SweatingGin||

    Skeptical of everything but the state, state power, identity politics, individualism, free will, liberty...

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    It's not as fun as Encyclopedia Dramatica

    They have one reference to Reason, I think an old user

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    Just looked up "reason" on Conservapedia. Not quite as hysterically bad as RationalWiki, but...

    Reason is the faculty by which one reaches judgment on matters of fact, and is applied through the tools of reasoning.[Who says?] The most common form of reason is Christianity.

    Some days, I wonder why God would die for me. Other days, I wonder why he died for everyone else...

  • Warrren||

    Their page on the gold standard is a horror show of the usual stupidity that surrounds the issue.

    rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gold_standard_(economics)

    Not enough gold? Really?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    PEAK GOLD!

  • Irish||

    They think that not having enough gold the problem with the gold standard? Hell, huge discoveries of gold tended to have a worse effect then a lack of gold. The Spaniards basically blew up their economy with century long inflation after they discovered gold in the Americas.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    I thought it was the silver that wrecked their economy.

  • Warrren||

    Van Creveld in Rise and Decline of the Stat covers it. But finding out what he says would mean going upstairs and opening a book.

  • Warrren||

    *State

  • Warrren||

    Anytime someone brings up "not enough gold" you know they are totally incompetent to discuss the issue.

    Explain that to them and then link to the following post (third chart):

    http://www.goldsheetlinks.com/production2.htm

    There's more gold per capita now than during the classical gold standard days.

  • Irish||

    Population growth is also slowing down. I've seen estimates that population will max out at like ten billion towards the end of the century and then will actually begin declining. It will probably find some kind of equilibrium somewhere below ten billion and stick there.

    That's obviously just an estimate, but with looming declines in population rates the entire 'not enough gold' argument is ludicrous.

  • SweatingGin||

    The general leftist "don't read comments" idea has been interesting to me. Yes, some places are wretched hives, but of you really want to see the people that occupy said site...

    In other words: don't read the comments on Kos, HP, DU, because they talk about putting people in camps.

    Don't read the comments on H&R, because they drink tears while orphans polish their monocled.

  • ||

    Ooh, this reminds me of something I wanted to see if I could get confirmation of that I heard a while ago from some other commentor here: that concurrence with Obama's pre-"evolved" stance on gay marriage was a bannable offense for bigotry on DU?

    Tried glancing around myself but nobody seemed to document this and it's the kind of thing that's hard to confirm in retrospect unless I really feel like digging through years of years-old DU threads... yeah.

  • ||

    I can't answer your question, but there's a Facebook page that might be able to: Democratic Underground Is Neither.

  • juris imprudent||

    Bringing this up here was off topic you realize.

    And just look at that mess. Who's going to clean it up?

  • General Butt Naked||

    Whoever wrote that has a lot of knowledge about this site's comment section. Makes me wonder if the author is a scorned troll.

  • MJGreen||

    The "Chile-style" detail is pretty funny.

  • Warrren||

    Into the copper mine with you!

  • Zeb||

    Because deleting a comment is just like secretly killing or imprisoning someone.

  • Rich||

    The comments section on Reason.com's "Hit & Run" page rivals Yahoo! News and YouTube for being the worst hive of scum and villainy on the Internet

    Wow. Thanks, Otis!

  • Zeb||

    That's funny.

    I can certainly see how someone would think, at a casual glance, that H&R comments is a horrible place full of mean rude people. And it is true that sometimes dissenting views are treated a bit harshly.
    But in general, this is really an excellent blog commenting thingy we have going here. There aren't so many people that your comment gets lost unless you refresh every second. Except for overt racism and obvious trolls who just want to ruin it for everyone, there is really no interference from the editors. And fairly often people actuality discuss things intelligently and in some depth. You have to be a bit tough skinned, but it works really well.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

  • Rich||

    FTFA: He's giving the old guy some space.

    Also, what an obnoxious site.

  • Warrren||

    The only problem with his death is going to be the maudlin reminiscences by the usual lefties.

    The funeral will probably be covered live by the major networks and preempt more interesting things.

  • Rich||

    The funeral will probably be covered live by the major networks

    *** hopefully ***

    The major *South African* networks?

  • Warrren||

    Yeah, they'll try to shoehorn him into the libertarian panoply.

  • PapayaSF||

    I suppose there will be various "South Africa After Mandela" thumbsuckers that will trumpet the "racial progress" while struggling to explain away the skyrocketing crime, murders of white farmers, etc.

  • ||

    "I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving they will find we are turned to hating."

  • SweatingGin||

    Maybe an Elton John song?

  • ||

    If I were dying I wouldn't want Obama to be the last thing I saw either.

  • Rich||

    Nice.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Is a picture like that how Obama discovered Jim Carney?

  • SIV||

    My apologies if this has already been posted:

    The Czechs are smoking us under the table!
    (click thru to the big chart)
    Twice the tobacco consumption and a higher percentage of dope smokers.
    I've never been so ashamed of my country :(

  • SIV||

  • ||

    Ugh, jpgs of tables are so much less useful than tables.

    Didn't everyone get Czech on their internal citizenship test?

  • SIV||

    IIRC, I got Greece.

  • ||

    Yeah, it's still not unusual to smell mj at an outdoor pub, not so common in a normal restaurant as it was 20 years ago.

    The other day, walking my son home from school, we passed some kids rolling a joint on a frisbee in a park. They weren't insouciant or anything, just casually covered it with their hands as my kid walked by. They weren't afraid that some pearl-clutching soccer mom was going to scream bloody murder that her child is being exposed to EVUL!

    BTW, smoking is common slang for oral sex in Czech. Kouř mě is the equivalent of blow me.

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    After reading the following batshit crazy screed on the RationalWiki Libertarian page, I am convinced that Tony is somehow involved with that site:

    Systems that attempt to boil themselves down to "a few simple rules" are seldom actually simple; for example, ancient Judaism's Deuteronomic reforms started out as just about half of the modern book of Deuteronomy, but eventually grew to encompass the whole Torah, large swaths of the rest of the Jewish Bible,[14] and ultimately to the vast body of commentary known as the Talmud. Esperanto, though defined in only sixteen grammatical rules, is actually quite a complex language, since its rules are defined in direct relation to established rules in Indo-European linguistics. Even some sports -- particularly golf -- have a strong element of common law in their rule systems.

    BAT. SHIT. CRAZY

  • Irish||

    SF'd.

    However, just reading that, I have no idea what the fuck they're talking about.

    They're comparing libertarianism to Deutoronomy and Esperanto? God, these rational wiki people are like OCD sufferers or Pavlovian dogs that drool when you use certain words and phrases. Nutcases.

  • ||

    Wow, I had no idea the commies were still freaking out about the Esperantists. What century is this, anyways?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Libertarianism (better known as American Conservatism v2.0) is a fad political ideology for 13-year-old boys, first year college students, stoners, and white business owners who use the "private property" argument so they don't have to serve niggers. Libertarians (conservatives/Republicans), more commonly known as Libertards or Lolbertarians, believe that governmental "intrusion" into people's lives should be limited as much as possible--except when someone breaks into their house, they need a contract enforced, or want a health inspector to check out the local restaurants. Government is just fine in those cases. They also believe roads and civic infrastructure are naturally occurring phenomena.

  • Irish||

    To be fair, isn't encyclopedia dramatica's entire purpose to insult literally everything?

    ED saying that stuff is pretty much their purpose for existing. What's pathetic is that supposedly trenchant thinkers have not advanced beyond the logic of a purposefully offensive Encyclopedia Dramatica troll.

  • ||

    To be fair, isn't encyclopedia dramatica's entire purpose to insult literally everything?

    Indeed:

    Cultural Marxists love to play the 'victim' game; in leftist thought, everyone is always oppressing someone or something, be it males, heterosexuals, whites, Christians, or Capitalists (i.e. the people responsible for every technological and civil advancement in human history), there is always an oppressor lurking in every corner. This is because liberals are, at their core, self-defeating. Liberals hate themselves and use this self-loathing as a tactic; for example, liberals tie themselves to trees, lay down on the ground in front of police, etc. They also believe that "the status quo iz evil" and is always wrong in all cases, with no exceptions whatsoever, and that everyone who disagrees with this is just an "oppressive white racist sexist homophobic xenophobic right-wing christian extremist/fundamentalist fascist imperialist NAAAAAAAZZZZZIIIIIIII !!!1!!11!111oneoneoneeleven".
    And they believe, on the flip side, that no one should ever have the right to call liberal views what they are - "garbage".

  • SweatingGin||

    That was written by somebody here, right?

  • Zeb||

    Heh. I had to check to see if that was from rationalwiki or encyclopediadramatica

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    This is the only thing that comes to mind:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZG_xNbVMmIA

  • rosemaryadverd113||

    my friend's aunt makes $66/hour on the laptop. She has been out of a job for nine months but last month her payment was $20103 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site Go to site and open Home for details
    http://WWW.JOBS31.COM

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    speak of the devil...

  • Warrren||

    I didn't realize that selling paintings of Rachael Maddow's asshole was so profitable.

  • Locke||

    I just caught 30 seconds of her show and I already heard the most blatantly stupid shit ever. Basically it's ok for Obama to issue executive orders and bypass Congress and ignore the Constitution because "Congress is a place where (his) ideas are laughed at"

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    Your friend's aunt worked 305 hours total last month to pull down that much loot. That adds up to 4 consecutive 76-hour work weeks of jamming objects into her babymaker. I can make that much in 2 weekends of peddling blow.

  • Sevo||

    So why a laptop? Why not a tablet? A main-frame? A Cray, for pete's sake?
    Does Mother Earth favor laptops?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

  • ||

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    That has brought so much joy into my life.

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    "Manbearpig is about to turn Miami into Atlantis" bleats hysterical apparatchik:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....zuKXSXpgQI

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

  • Otis B. Driftwood||

    That's tits.
    BBC covers great stories like that and our Ministry of Truth spends a week covering Paula Deen's past use of "nigger."

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

  • Irish||

    I found a pretty filthy website that Pantsfan might be into.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Curling fans are the Canadian equivalent of NASCAR fans.

  • ||

    You shut your dirty mouth. Curling is chess on ice.

  • Zeb||

    I thought it was shuffleboard on ice.

  • Warrren||

    He's a faminist so you've just offended him with your prontatoes.

  • ||

    Those red and purple ones are the best part of a pot roast.

  • Warrren||

    Goddammit! My kid is Netflixing Mythbusters and the episode with Obama is the one on now.

  • Warrren||

    And it's the set a ship on fire with mirrors myth HE wants redone.

    And it's idiotic. If they're close enough to be set on fire with a mirror they're in range of artillery and arrows. Just shot them! Don't bother with giving them a sunburn! Shoot them!

    If though, the idea is to blind the helmsmen so they have a hard time finding a place to land, then that works as a tactic.

  • Warrren||

    On the other hand she just asked me if the rough part of Italy is called the Spaghetto.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    In other news, I am getting a most excellent lightning show to the west.

  • Warrren||

    Contra John The Hollywood Reporter says it was Jagger who got booed not the mention of Obama.

    http://movies.yahoo.com/news/m.....00262.html

    Hmmm, who to believe?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    I think the Republicrats won the Texas abortion bill, but the Democans may not be happy about it.

  • Guy Laguy||

    When Texas turns Blue, tonight may well be looked upon as the beginning.

  • ||

    I really cannot wait for the SCOTUS hearing on this.

    Oh really Ms. Kagan, tell me again how imposing these restrictions on a business will harm said business in an unreasonable way...

  • MJGreen||

    Jesus, Texas GOP. It was a pretty great day for your guys - you even got to see some pure progressive racism - but then you had to start this fiasco.

  • Warrren||

    Lamar Alexander advocates abolishing the minimum wage, naturally Huffers go crazy. I used to be saddened by economic ignorance but now it has transformed into enjoyment.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....98975.html

  • PapayaSF||

    A compromise is to just stop raising the damn thing. At one point in the '90s low-end wages were starting to exceed minimums in some areas, so naturally the liberals thought this was an emergency that required raising it again.

    And of course they raised it in 2009, right after the economy collapsed. Gee, why has unemployment been so persistent?

  • ||

    It's the main reason why teenage unemployment is so god awful.

  • Zeb||

    And why a higher proportion of workers now make minimum wage.

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