Sojourner Hardeman is a 42-year-old former law firm assistant who quietly panhandles on Fifth Avenue near 56th street, advertising her computer and typing skills with a cardboard sign. She makes enough for a MetroCard, a storage space, food and a phone bill. But the NYPD's Midtown North Precinct, shocked at seeing an endangered species on their turf, arrested her for disorderly conduct this spring. Hardeman filed a lawsuit challenging the bogus detention, and was repeatedly harassed and ticketed last month because of it, the Times reports. "You can't be here. This is Fifth Avenue," the officers told her. In the NYPD's defense, the sanctity of the Build-A-Bear Workshop must be protected at all costs.
Clearly not understanding how important it is for patrons of the University Club to be shielded from peasants, a judge issued an injunction before the lawsuit was even settled ordering the NYPD not to arrest her unless there was probable cause (the NYPD must be reminded of this) and directing the city to educate officers in the precinct about what "disorderly conduct" means.
While there is a law against aggressive panhandling, what Hardeman is doing is "clearly constitutionally protected," her attorney says. The police argue that Hardeman was arrested because she was "blocking pedestrian traffic," but if that were true then the Tombs would be filled with fanny-pack wearing Europeans. "I'm not planning for this to be a career," Hardeman says, "I'm just trying to meet expenses." Maybe if she sat next to Abercrombie & Fitch they'd lock up some of those naked dudes?