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Group protests St. Petersburg Times' suit against city

A motorist waves to a panhandler Sunday after giving him some change at the corner of 20th Street and Fifth Ave. N.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

A motorist waves to a panhandler Sunday after giving him some change at the corner of 20th Street and Fifth Ave. N.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city's ban on street solicitation went into effect Sunday with little fanfare.

Enforcement is in the educational phase, police say, and as of Sunday afternoon, officers warned four people they saw violating the ban.

Residents who oppose a lawsuit challenging the ban organized a small protest outside the St. Petersburg Times building. About three dozen people waved signs from 10 to 11 a.m. to show their disdain for a suit the newspaper's parent company filed against the city of St. Petersburg.

"I just don't appreciate the Times suing the city for a valid ordinance," said Jeremiah Rohr, 56, who held a sign saying "Drop the suit or Drop the Times."

Some protesters, like Rohr, live in Historic Kenwood and blame the homeless for degrading their neighborhood and tarnishing the community's image.

The City Council unanimously passed the ban June 3 in an effort to stem panhandling that has troubled neighborhood leaders. Four days later, Times Publishing Co. sued the city in federal court, claiming the ban violates a constitutional right to free speech.

Group protests St. Petersburg Times' suit against city 06/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 12:32am]
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