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Demonstration held in support of panhandler facing court action by City of Penticton

A demonstration was held on Tuesday in the 200-block of Main Street in support of a well-known street person being taken to court by the City of Penticton.

The city is seeking a court order against panhandler Paul Braun to force him to move from his usual panhandling spot near a downtown pedestrian walkway.

“I am not harming anybody,” Braun said.

A public statement issued by the city said the Good Neighbor Bylaw states “no person shall panhandle in a manner to cause an obstruction.”

The statement said governing “obstruction” is restricted to “within 10 metres of an entrance to or within an enclosed or covered pedestrian walkway.”

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The city hired a lawyer from Victoria to prosecute Braun for violating the bylaw.

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Braun has received eight outstanding tickets he said he can’t afford to pay.

“I was surprised, don’t they have anything better to do?” Braun said.

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Braun’s defence lawyer Paul Varga took part in the demonstration by sitting on the ground next to his client.

Varga alleges the city is waging war on the homeless.

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“Why would you ticket somebody who has the least ability to pay?” Varga said.

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The city denies the assertion and said in the statement that “nothing could be further from the truth.”

The statement, unattributed to a particular individual, said Braun isn’t homeless and has a residence.

It says Braun obtains a revenue stream as a result of the bylaw breaches and that he rejected a settlement forcing the city to proceed to trial.

The case is already being tried in the court of public opinion and demonstration attendees vowed to help Braun fight the city in court.

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“I think it’s a shame that the City of Penticton would stoop so low as to give a man a ticket because he’s hungry and he wants to eat,” supporter Betty Mahar said.

“It is his right as a human being to sit there and I object to city hall wasting my tax dollars,” demonstration attendee Penny Dellamater said.

“I resent the city spending our good money taking a man to court who is just wanting to feed himself,” added Sharon Younghusband.

A four-day trial has been scheduled in September.