Whenever the subject of panhandling comes up [“Change in the Air,” Aug. 27, City Weekly], someone starts spouting off about how panhandling is protected by “constitutional rights to free speech.” It is as predictable as night following day.
I’m afraid that I have bad news for the people who keep replaying this broken record: Freedom-of-speech laws do not give any person or group the right to harm another. When panhandlers reside in certain areas, people like myself begin making the choice to avoid these areas. I am not particularly small, frail or easy to intimidate; I am just sick and tired of having to say “no.”
I can easily see how a senior or petite person could be intimidated, and I feel for them. When we all choose to avoid an area, the shopkeepers involved lose real money, the state loses real taxes and any development of these areas becomes instantly pointless. This is measurable, tangible harm. And not protected by the Constitution.
Salt Lake City