This evening I will introduce an ordinance that will help ensure the safety of pedestrians, student fundraisers, and panhandlers on our streets. All too often we see young people raising money for their sports teams or other organizations standing at busy intersections, and I’m always concerned for their safety.
Even with Rhode Island’s “Hands-Free Law,” distracted driving is still a problem in Providence and around the state. This proposed legislation is meant to protect individuals who are actively soliciting donations from a myriad of dangers; including being hit by vehicles, causing unintended accidents, and even death. On June 17, 2019, a panhandler was stabbed to death, and another was beaten and died from their injuries over a year ago at the off-ramp on Branch Avenue.
This ordinance is not the end, but it’s the beginning of a tough conversation of how we balance freedom of speech and personal safety. I don’t know the answers, but as a legislator, I know that I have a moral obligation to protect the lives of those that call Providence home.
I’m aware of the ACLU’s position and legal accomplishments in similar cases, and I’m hoping that we can work together to find solutions that don’t infringe on people’s rights, yet keeps them out of harms way.