Court Rules No Panhandling At Los Angeles International Airport <


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Court Rules No Panhandling At Los Angeles International Airport

By Antonio Percy

March 26, 2010 - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa and airport officials are pleased with Thursday’s unanimous decision by the California Supreme Court upholding a 1997 Los Angeles City ordinance prohibiting solicitation and receipt of funds in the terminals, parking areas, and adjacent sidewalks at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Airport officials said their next step is to return to the federal court system to ask that a preliminary injunction, imposed in 1997, be lifted allowing Los Angeles Airport Police to enforce the law.

"LAX is the first and last impression that millions of airline passengers and visitors have of Los Angeles," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa. "This decision helps ensure the comfort and safety of the traveling public at LAX."

The ordinance was passed by the Los Angeles City Council on April 1,1997, in response to on-going complaints from passengers, visitors, airline tenants, and employees, who report that solicitor activity at LAX disrupts and interferes with their use of the airport. However, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of California, Inc. (ISKON) sued in the United States District Court (California) to enjoin the airport from enforcing the law.

Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey said, "The court's decision today will provide a more comfortable environment for the hundreds of thousands of airline passengers, employees and visitors who use the airport daily. Solicitors asking our passengers for money creates confusion and increases congestion at LAX. They operate without the consent of the airport."

In its ruling today, the California Supreme Court concluded that ISKON has "ample alternative means of conveying its message." The organization still "can distribute literature and speak to willing travelers. It can even seek financial support, as long as it does not request the immediate exchange of funds."

Los Angeles Airport Chief of Police, George R. Centeno said, "I am very pleased with the ruling by the California Supreme Court on the matter of solicitors at LAX. This ruling will undoubtedly help police ensure passenger security and safety at both the departure and arrival areas. While the new ruling does not prohibit the presence of solicitors on airport property, because individuals cannot ask for immediate donations on site, travelers will feel less threatened and consequently safer when confronted by them."


It noted that the City's ordinance only prohibits ISKON and other groups from soliciting immediate receipt of donations, which the Court decision described as "particularly problematic." In conclusion, the Court ruled that even if areas of the airport are considered "public forums" under the California Constitution, the City ordinance "is valid on its face as a reasonable, content-neutral regulation of the manner of protected speech."

The ordinance changes Subdivision (c) of Section 23.27 of the Los Angeles Administrative Code. Violators could face a penalty of up to six months in jail or a fine of $1,000, if convicted.
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