Panhandlers file class-action lawsuit against Chicago

May 23, 2012 2:48:21 PM PDT
Panhandlers are claiming they are being forced off the Magnificent Mile. They are filing a lawsuit to reclaim their spot on Michigan Avenue.

Kim Pindak says he went to college with plans of going on to medical school. But he says his mental illness disrupted those plans and he has had trouble holding jobs.

"There are some people some good people who do care in the world, and those people are the ones, as a panhandler, I'm reaching out to," said Pindak.

His attorney says Pindak gets disability income from the federal government and all but $30 a month goes to the nursing home facility where he lives.

"A dollar a day. That's only like getting a soda a day or a cup a coffee a day," said Pindak. "So if I'm not by the nursing home during the day looking for work, I don't have the money to eat."

So he asks for help. This was not his plan, but this is now Pindak's life.

Recently, Pindak says he has been threatened with arrest. Video provided by Pindak's attorney shows what appears to be a police officer warning Pindak to leave the 900-block of North Michigan Avenue.

Pindak and others claim recent harassment by police for panhandling along the tourist-rich stretch of Michigan Avenue.

"First I felt afraid, and I felt like a lot of my actions were limited," Pindak said.

"This is the other 1 percent. This is the bottom 1 percent," said attorney Mark Weinberg. "These are people who are just struggling to live."

Attorneys for panhandlers filed a class-action lawsuit against the city and individual police officers. The complaints ask the city to stop any action that prevents lawful panhandling.

Over the years there has been concern about aggressive panhandling. A city law prevents panhandlers from following, blocking or touching someone. And they can't block someone's path or use abusive language.

The city's spokesman has not seen the lawsuit and cannot comment on the allegations of police harassment.

"People do find panhandlers an annoyance," Weinberg said. "But, the question is, Do we sacrifice Constitution rights because we find the a nuisance? And my answer is no."

Lawsuit or not, Pindak continues looking for help but is staying away from Michigan Avenue for now.


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