90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WMFV are Central Florida's primary provider of NPR programming and Classical Music. Part of the community since 1965, providing quality national and local news and programming. We inspire and empower all Central Floridians to discover, grow and engage within and beyond their world.
Support for 90.7 WMFE is provided by

Lawsuit claims Ocala panhandling ordinances violate right to free speech

Play Audio

Ocala is being sued again over local laws affecting homeless people.

This time, the Southern Legal Counsel and ACLU of Florida are challenging the city’s panhandling ordinances.

The lawyers represent six Ocala-area residents. Four of them are homeless, and several have disabilities.

Ocala City Hall. Photo: City of Ocala via Facebook

All together, they have spent 209 days in jail and been assessed fines and fees of nearly $8,000 dollars for panhandling.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court Monday. It says the city is violating their constitutionally protected free speech. An ACLU lawyer says that includes “the right to ask for help in public spaces.”

It seeks compensation and an order preventing Ocala from enforcing those laws.

The same groups, plus local lawyer Andrew Pozzuto, successfully challenged the city’s open lodging law. And last month the City Council modified the ordinance.

Ocala police can no longer arrest people for sleeping outside just because they’re homeless.

Get The 90.7 WMFE Newsletter

Your trusted news source for the latest Central Florida news, updates on special programs and more.

Stay tuned in to our local news coverage: Listen to 90.7 WMFE on your FM or HD radio, the WMFE mobile app or your smart speaker — say “Alexa, play NPR” and you’ll be connected.

WMFE Journalistic Ethics Code | Public Media Code of Integrity

Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes reports on aging-related issues for WMFE/WMFV. Please contact him at jbyrnes@wmfe.org. He came to WMFE from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after ... Read Full Bio »