ACLU sues city over popular newspaper - WSMV Channel 4

ACLU sues city over popular newspaper

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BRENTWOOD, TN (WSMV) -

They are scattered across Nashville street corners selling the popular homeless newspaper, but "The Contributor" vendors aren't welcome everywhere.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of Brentwood for not allowing homeless people to sell their newspaper in the city limits.

They say it's a violation of their freedom of speech.

"The Contributor" has turned into big business for the homeless, but on the streets in Brentwood, it isn't allowed.

"I got that ticket and got discouraged really," said Calvin Hart, a paper vendor.

The city handed out seven citations over the past few months to Hart and others for selling the paper.

"He just rode up in his police car. He said, 'Do you know it's illegal to sell these newspapers here?' I said, 'no.' And he said, 'Well I'm going to have to issue you a citation,'" said Hart.

The ACLU is backing Hart and "The Contributor" newspaper.

Wednesday, they filed a lawsuit against Brentwood for what they call a violation of their freedom of speech rights.

"The Brentwood ordinance irrationally and unreasonably regulates the speech and expressive activity of "The Contributor" and its standards and it is for that reason that we have filed our lawsuit," said Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU.

The audience on hand to hear Wednesday's announcement applauded their actions.

Brentwood representatives said their issue isn't with the people selling things on the sidewalk, but rather when they get in the street that's the problem.

City representatives issued the following statement: "It is not the city's intention to prohibit the sale of newspapers, nor does the city wish to discriminate against anyone, including persons who happen to be homeless."

Brentwood's ordinance about street vendors was written back in 1969.

City leaders are in the process of amending that ordinance to make it clear that people can sell items on the sidewalk, as long as they aren't in the street.

Those amendments are expected to be in place by the end of July.

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