CONCORD, N.H. — The town of Hudson’s officials and police officers are violating the free-speech rights of the poor and the homeless by harassing and arresting panhandlers who use signs to solicit handouts, the state Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed against the town in federal court in Concord, seeks a court order that town officials stop interfering with the free-speech rights of panhandlers on public property.

A 24-year-old homeless man, Jeffery Pendleton, is the lead plaintiff. New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union attorney Gilles Bissonnette said Wednesday that Pendleton, who has been arrested at least once, no longer panhandles in Hudson because he fears he will be arrested again.

“The police made it clear if you engage in this form of speech you will be detained, cited and maybe arrested,” Bissonnette said. “His First Amendment rights have been chilled.”

Hudson’s lawyer, Jay Hodes, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

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