Target: Michigan Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter
Goal: Stop efforts to fine the homeless for “aggressive” panhandling with vaguely worded bill.
Countless homeless individuals could be fined for asking for money in the wrong way if a Michigan bill is passed into law. The bill is called the Aggressive Solicitation Prohibition Act and has come under fire for being incredibly vague as to what constitutes “aggressive” and for singling out homeless people for behavior allowed by others. It also makes no sense to fine people who have no money for asking for money.
Michigan Representative Mike McCready introduced the bill recently, which would make touching or blocking the path of the person being solicited worthy of a $100 fine. It also forbids “approaching or following a person in a manner intended to cause bodily harm.” However, determining intent is difficult, and critics argue that people in poverty and people of color are more likely to have their actions interpreted as being aggressive or violent. They also point out that other individuals such as abortion clinic protesters are not subject to the same rules and fines.
This is another case of our most vulnerable people being singled out for restrictions and another in a pattern of attempting to criminalize homelessness instead of helping the homeless. Their lives are already difficult enough without having to worry about getting a fine they could never pay because someone interpreted their body language as aggressive. Sign our petition to demand that this bill be voted down.
Dear Speaker Cotter,
Michigan Representative Mike McCready recently introduced a bill that would make so-called “aggressive” panhandling an offense worth of a $100 fine. This bill, the Aggressive Solicitation Prohibition Act, only targets homeless people and not others who can be just as aggressive in public such as salespeople and abortion clinic protesters.
The bill has been widely criticized for its vague language. Many actions can be interpreted as intending to cause harm, and a movement that looks aggressive to one person could look harmless to another. There’s also considerable potential for misinterpretation based on appearance. Homeless individuals, particularly those of color, are more likely to be viewed as aggressive or dangerous than others.
This legislation unfairly targets our society’s most vulnerable, and no one can explain how the destitute are supposed to pay $100 fines when they have to beg just to get money for food. We demand that you do everything possible to ensure that this vague, discriminatory, and heartless bill is voted down. The homeless need our help, not to be criminalized.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Garry Knight