Gray v. City of Alpharetta: Army Veteran Arrested in Alpharetta, Georgia for Holding ‘God Bless the Homeless Vets’ Sign in Front of City Hall


Case Overview


On January 27, 2022, Jeff Gray held a sign reading “God Bless the Homeless Vets” outside Alpharetta City Hall to raise awareness of the plight of homeless veterans. Within minutes, an Alpharetta police officer, Lt. Arick Furr, told Gray — as Alpharetta police routinely do —  that “panhandling” was illegal in the city and that Gray needed to leave. Gray was not panhandling. (Even if he were, asking others for money is protected by the First Amendment.) But police argued that his sign was, itself, “panhandling.” Gray recorded these interactions.

FIRE plaintiff
FIRE plaintiff Jeff Gray holds a sign reading "God bless homeless vets" (Lacy Jessica Photography)

When Gray didn’t leave, Lt. Furr detained Gray and demanded his identification. When Gray declined, Lt. Furr placed Gray in handcuffs, searched him, and turned off his camera — falsely claiming that it was necessary to preserve the camera’s “battery.” A second Alpharetta officer, Hal Shoffeitt, arrived and berated Gray, falsely claiming that when you “make controversy out of your own words, that’s disorderly conduct.”

Lt. Furr and Officer Shoffeitt violated Gray’s rights under the First Amendment, which protects the right to record police, to speak anonymously, and to stand in front of City Hall with a sign. Even if police wrongly believed Gray was soliciting others for money, the First Amendment protects that, too. They also violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment, seizing and searching Gray without sufficient cause. And when they released him, the officers banned Gray from the public sidewalk in front of City Hall, preventing him from further relaying his message — violating his First Amendment rights again.

On January 31, 2022, FIRE filed a lawsuit on Gray’s behalf to vindicate his constitutional rights and end Alpharetta’s unwritten ban on “panhandling.”