OAKLAND — Today, the ACLU of Northern California will give public comment at the BART Board of Directors meeting calling on the Board to forgo any potential ordinance that would prohibit panhandling on BART.
In its public comment letter, the ACLU warns that panhandling, busking, and other forms of solicitation are free speech protected under the First Amendment as well as state law. The letter is in response to recent efforts by Board Director Debora Allen to ban solicitations on BART.
Rather than criminalize people who ask for donations to meet their daily needs, the ACLU letter urges the board to follow its own policies by investing resources to aid people experiencing homelessness and to make BART accessible to everyone who depends on it, including people who face economic, health, and environmental barriers.
“BART should provide resources to those in need as their policies indicate, not ban constitutionally protected free speech,” said Abre’ Conner, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “We hope this meeting reminds the Board that when people get on BART, their civil rights come with them.”
The City of Sacramento recently tried to adopt an anti-panhandling ordinance that was stopped by the Eastern District Court of California because it targeted people based on the content of their speech. Similarly, courts across the country have limited the government’s ability to undermine free speech.
BART Board Meeting Date and Time: Thursday, Aug. 22, at 9:00 a.m.
BART Board of Directors
2040 Webster Street, Third Floor