Street performer fights back on ban: 'I've been here all my life'
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) —
The city of Pensacola is struggling with how to deal with panhandlers.
The panhandling ordinance that was passed earlier this month is on hold after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the city.
Under the ordinance, street performers in downtown Pensacola would be restricted to performing.
On the third Friday of each month, 64-year-old Emanuel Cook looks forward to Gallery Night.
"I’ve been here all my life, all my life," said Cook.
He has playing his guitar in the downtown district for the past six years
"When I started playing down here, nobody else was playing," Cook said.
But this entertainment could soon be forced from the streets and shut down for good.
"They don't even live here and a lot of times they go in between cities, harassing people and then go to a different town. It shouldn't impact the people who live here," said Cook.
Cook said the panhandling ordinance is violating his free speech rights and right to due process.
"You got some guys out here that will try to hustle and bustle people which is wrong, but they’re not from Pensacola, they are from out of town and I think that is very sad," added Cook.
Cook said he has spoken to hundreds of tourists visiting the downtown area and have heard nothing but positive things about it until now.
“I really don't understand it myself. It doesn’t make no sense, that's what tourists come to see, they don't come to see Pensacola, they come to see the people and that is what its really all about; the people who live here," explained Cook.
Although there were no signs of money in Cook's guitar case Friday night, some people stopped to offer him food.
Earlier this week the ACLU asked the court for an order to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance while the suit moves through the courts.
The city of Pensacola and the ACLU will argue their cases in court May 30th.