Bennington residents protest new panhandling ordinance

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Updated: 12/02/2013 5:34 pm

BENNINGTON, Vt. -- A controversial new ordinance banning anyone from aggressively soliciting others for money along the streets of Bennington, led to a protest Sunday.

A protest erupted in opposition to the new ordinance, many stating that poverty is the issue, not panhandling.

Dozens of protesters sang in the center of town held signs saying, "I have a roof over my head but I panhandle for those that don't."

Protester and local business owner Jim Carroll says panhandling is not an issue in the town.

"This problem, I think is really a non-existent problem. We've had characters in this town since I was a little kid," explained Carroll, "They've never hurt anybody and I think it's been blown way out of proportion."

Carroll says the ordinance is giving people the wrong impression.

However, Town Manager Stuart Hurd says local businesses owners have complained about it happening outside of their stores.

"What we attempted to do was give the police, the town, a tool were we could suggest to people who were being aggressive and seeking funds on the sidewalks that they should move on and should they not move on there would be a civil penalty," said Hurd.

Joel Lentzner, owner of Fiddlehead at four corners, protested by soliciting outside his business, he said panhandling is not an issue in Bennington.

"I haven't seen any signs and I haven't seen any aggressive panhandling," said Lentzner.

According to Hurd, a fine of $50 to $200 will be given to those who violate the ordinance.

"Well I think the whole idea behind ticketing a beggar, I mean it's kind of ridiculous, don't you think it's laughable? How are they going to pay a fine?" said Carroll.

The ordinance goes into effect in January. Some of the protesters do plan to petition to repeal the ban. 

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