Rhode Island ACLU files lawsuit on behalf of homeless camped outside State House

This is a photo of tents outside of the Rhode Island State House. (WLNE)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Rhode Island ACLU said Tuesday they filed a lawsuit on behalf of the homeless who are camped outside the State House.

The ACLU’s complaint reads that the homeless camped out at the State House because “they wish to convey a message that they are in need of and unable to access adequate shelter.”

“They believe that the message is best conveyed by their continuing physical presence at the seat of Rhode Island government,” read the complaint.

Steven Brown, the ACLU’s executive director, argued that the State House grounds are a “traditional public forum where the Government’s ability to limit protected speech and expression is at its most constrained.”

Brown contended that while Gov. Dan McKee’s eviction notice said that “camping [or] sleeping overnight at the State House grounds is prohibited,” the state has not “adopted any regulations to that effect in accordance with the R.I. Administrative Procedures Act.”

Tuesday’s complaint supplelments a Superior Court judge’s temporary restraining order filed on Dec. 9, allowing the homeless to stay in their tents outside the State House until at least Dec. 14.

Last week, Rhode Island State Police and the McKee administration handed an eviction notice to the homeless occupying the tents.

On Dec. 8, the ACLU sent a letter to Gov. Dan McKee, asking him to “rescind a notice requiring all persons currently camping in front of the State House to vacate their property” by Friday morning.

McKee’s office said the people outside the State House were offered a bed, transportation, and storage for their personal items.

A hearing on the injunction request is scheduled to be heard Wednesday.

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