U.S. Circuit Court Rules Brentwood Can Restrict Streetside Homeless Newspaper Sales

Kurt Winans has been one of The Contributor vendors. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Kurt Winans has been one of hundreds of homeless and formerly homeless vendors. At some points, The Contributor has had the highest circulation of any streetpaper in the country. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

The affluent city of Brentwood can keep homeless salesmen of The Contributor newspaper from doing business with passing cars. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision affirming a city ordinance.

Until Contributor vendors moved in to Brentwood, the city rarely enforced a longstanding prohibition on sidewalk sales. Then two salesmen were cited and fined $125. The city argues it’s a matter of safety.

The federal panel ruled that the ordinance is not an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. In a written opinion, the court suggested vendors could still sell to pedestrians or go door-to-door.

Contributor founder Tasha French says she’s disappointed.

“It’s the principal of the matter. The way we’ve been distributing in Nashville, we want to protect that in the surrounding communities. You know, we hold out hope that maybe even at some point Brentwood could reconsider that ordinance.”

The Contributor – as a newspaper – focuses on homeless issues, but its purpose is primarily to be a source of income for the vendors. There are now so many that some travel as far as Gallatin and Murfreesboro to sell the paper.

A statement from the city of Brentwood says its priority is to “preserve public safety” and that the ordinance recognizes “the constitutional rights of those who wish to distribute materials by safer methods.”

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services - even noble organizations - will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.