"Political Repression in Santa Cruz, California" [northbayuprising.blogspot.com/2013/01/human-rights-abuse-in-itty-bitty-santa.html]
Santa Cruz attacking houseless people [northbayuprising.blogspot.com/2013/01/santa-cruz-attacking-houseless-people.html]
* "Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs" [scfnb.org] [foodnotbombs-sc (@riseup.net]
"Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom" [huffsantacruz.org]
"Occupy Santa Cruz" meets Sundays on the steps of the main Santa Cruz Post Office at 2 PM, and on the Water St. steps of the courthouse at 6 PM on Wednesdays.
"Food Not Bombs Back In Spite of Police & Postal Harassment"
by Robert Norse, posted 2013-01-30 to [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/01/30/18731070.php]:
FOOD NOT BOMBS RETURNS -
2013-02-02, Saturday, 4PM to 6PM, on the sidewalk next to the Main Post Office at the intersection of Pacific, Front, Mission, N. River, and Soquel Streets.
Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs continues its weekly public feeding in front of the Main Post Office.
Last week it was driven by police and postal officials from the spot it had served at for the previous month--under the eaves of the Post Office.
At that spot it did not block traffic, was protected from the wind and rain, and operated without difficulties--except that postal employees objected for unspecified reasons (anonymous complaints).
Last week under threat of arrest, FNB was forced to the sidewalk to serve.
More on this at [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/01/19/18730563.php?show_comments=1#18730857] and the main story to which this comment is attached.
THE BROADER THREAT -
Allowing bureaucrats and cops to deny the community the right to assemble is a dangerous precedent. Two and a half years ago City Hall and the Library were made curfew zones at night to stop peaceful protest.
Last year, Chief Administrative Officer Susan Mauriello decreed a 7 PM to 7 AM curfew at the courthouse and county building against Occupy Santa Cruz. This curfew is still in force--as though we were under martial law.
CONTACT INFORMATION -
The e-mail address and website for for Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs are [foodnotbombs-sc (@riseup.net] & [http://www.scfnb.org]. They also have a facebook page. The best way to reach them is to come to the Saturday 4 PM meal and volunteer.
Robert Norse of HUFF (Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom) is posting this event. At our weekly meeting we voted to support FNB and encourage others in the community to cook and serve. We also urge folks to come witness and be in solidarity with FNB servers as they rightfully use the public space to both feed and raise important social and political questions.
THE BROADER PICTURE -
The attack on Food Not Bombs may be part of a broader agenda by groups downtown (the Downtown Association, Santa Cruz Neighbors, SCPD, City Council) to remove visible poverty from sight and "make Santa Cruz a less welcoming place for the Undesirable".
Attacks on food servers has been done in the past in Santa Cruz and other cities and only stopped when FNB and other feeding groups refused to stop feeding, even in the face of threats of arrest.
A HISTORICAL LOOK BACK -
For an account of my jailtime and its impact in helping to stopp the harassment of Food Not Bombs in San Francisco two decades ago see: [http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/001.SoupCrime%20In%20San%20Francisco=8-96.pdf] & [http://www.huffsantacruz.org/StreetSpiritSantaCruz/002.SoupCrime%20In%20S.F.%28cont.%29=8-96.pdf]
UPCOMING ATTACKS ON THE HOMELESS
City Council with its right-wing majority is likely to pass the anti-homeless recommendations of the Public Safety [sic] Committee, perhaps as early as next Tuesday. See "New Attack on Homeless Slated in City Council's "Public Safety" Committee Meeting" [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/01/29/18730942.php].
I hope that our local FNB will continue the work of its predecessors in taking direct stands to dramatize the abuses of the anti-homeless groups (and phony poverty pimps).
Those who have aided and abetted the anti-homeless sweeps of the last year using "needle hysteria" to scapegoat already vulnerable poor people need to be confronted and exposed.
These are my opinions, though I think many in HUFF share them (even some in FNB). I do not speak for FNB (nor for the homeless community), but only for myself.
Please get in touch with FNB and sign up to cook and serve. And show up with cameras, video and audio devices, and friends to witness and support.
The only thing that illegitimate power understands is the power of the community aroused.
2013-01-19 "Food Not Bombs Under Attack at Its 4 PM Saturday Feeding on the Main Post Office Steps" by Robert Norse
Arriving with warnings and cameras, two uniformed officers threatened Food Not Bombs workers with criminal actions today for staffing a table distributing meals to hungry and homeless people. The sergeant noted he'd be forwarding information to District Attorney Bob Lee's office for further action and interrogated several of the workers there while photographing those eating, those serving, and those watching. I sent the following letter to Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry:
From: rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com
To: foodnotbombs [at] earthlink.net
Subject: FNB in Santa Cruz Under Attack
Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2013 22:38:32 -0800
A police officer and his sergeant superior appeared at the main post office steps today shortly after 4 PM where Food Not Bombs was doing its weekly feeding.
The officer advised the FNBers that they were "trespassing" (though the post office was open; people were coming in and out; the meal was set off too the side in an area not traveled by the usual customers; and FNB workers noted a previous encounter with Sgt. Azua had seemed to establish there were no violations of the law happening). He took a number of photos of the workers, who continued to feed people (30-40 people came through by my casual count in the hour or two that FNB was there). Santa Cruz FNB had been serving at the post office for the last month.
A sergeant arriving afterwards sought names and information from the workers and stated they were "gathering evidence of trespass" at the request of the postmaster.
Several of the workers were upset by this police intervention. A number of those served were scared or angry. The meal continued, but with significant consternation.
The police seemed to indicate they would be returning.
I would encourage you to alert other FNB activists that this is happening in Santa Cruz and they may need support against legal or extralegal police action that seems to now be on the horizon.
I'll be playing some audio of this on my radio show tomorrow between 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM at 101.3 FM, streaming at [http://tunein.com/radio/FRSC-s47254/], and archived at [http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb130120.mp3] (about 2 1/2 hours into the audio file).
Please all in (831-427-3772) if you have any suggestions any time before 1 PM PST.
2013-01-27 "Today at the Meal" by Robert Norse
POLICE AND POSTAL OFFICIALS DEMAND FNB MOVE OFF "POST OFFICE" PROPERTY -
The FNB meal began around 4 PM Saturday January 26th and was immediately
approached by police. Workers moved the meal to the sidewalk within 20
minutes after police and postal officials began their threats. It
continued for 1 1/2 to 2 hours on the sidewalk.
Briefly, two SCPD officers and two postal officials approached the group and demanded they move off the post office property, while proclaiming "concern and appreciation" for the feeding of homeless people. After initially trying to continue feeding at the original location under the eaves of the post office, the FNB workers picked up their tables and moved to the sidewalk.
I recorded some of the interaction between officials and FNB workers. I'll be playing that tape tomorrow on Free Radio Santa Cruz at 10 AM (http://tunein.com/radio/FRSC-s47254/ or 101.3 FM). The show will archive at [http://www.radiolibre.org/brb/brb130127.mp3]--about 2 1/2 hours into the audio. Call-in at 427-3772.
At the request of FNB workers, Steve Pleich took a leading role in facilitating the withdrawal of FNB from the post office steps to the sidewalk where it continued to feed without further molestation. Officials rejected my request to know the full name of the individual demanding we move and of his superior's name. Police sergeant D. Forbas kept trying to shield his conversation with Pleich from the listening ears of my recorder and refused to answer questions which I put to him afterwards.
VICTORY, SETBACK, OR BOTH?
Some considered the day's actions a success--with the meal continuing to be fed, folks continuing to sit on the steps of the post office and eat. Others wondered if this were the first step in a campaign to drive FNB from visible feeding in the downtown. The Food Not Bombs banner was visible, but I didn't notice any literature present--the group willing for the moment to give up the right to serve and distribute literature in the unused area they had been at for the previous six weeks under threat of trespass arrest.
While the postal inspector insisted that the group was "violating federal regulations", he declined to say which regulations except for vague claims that FNB was "conducting business". The claim that FNB was violating the state trespass code seemed a strange one since the area is open to the general public.
THE ISSUES INVOLVED -
Food Not Bombs groups in other cities has insisted that it is not simply a charitable organization serving food, but one presenting a clear message (with literature and banners). Such was an earlier FNB message in Santa Cruz in the late 80's and mid-90's when Santa Cruz FNB fed in different spots.
FNB workers and some supporters noted that FNB had only moved 20-30 feet, that it was not being told to disperse, that it would continue to "make poverty visible" and feed poor and homeless people, and address further hostile police actions if they arose as they arose.
Similar threats used against Occupy Santa Cruz [OSC] when it was in front of the courthouse in the fall of 2011 resulted in some citations and arrests, but no charges ultimately in court under the trespass code used to intimidate FNB workers today.
Unlike FNB activists decades before OSC activists did not return to reclaim the space in front of the courthouse once threatened with arrest. However, unlike the earlier attack on FNB in Santa Cruz and San Francisco which demanded the groups cease serving food altogether because they "didn't have a permit", the current attack so far is only limited to the post office grounds and supposedly has to do with location rather than food serving itself.
For some of the events in the history of the FNB movement, go to [http://foodnotbombs.net/fnb_time_line.html].
FOOD SERVER HARASSMENT ELSEWHERE -
However, a church group feeding in front of Forever Twenty-One on Thursday afternoon was reportedly the target of SCPD police action against clients sitting within 14' of buildings.
Ronee and Scott Curry, who regularly conduct Sunday lunch on Pacific Avenue at Soquel and Pacific have experienced some harassment either directly under the "move every hour" ordinance or of their clients hassled for "sitting down".
Father Joel Miller of the Calvary Episcopal Church experienced a strong attack from former Mayor (and recently reelected City Council member) Cynthia Mathews for his once-a-week Monday dinner at the Red Church, across from Matthew's historic property (located between the Nickelodeon and Jack's Hamburgers).
Pastor Dennis Adams was driven away from the downtown by merchant and police hostility several years ago, now doing his meal out at the Homeless (Lack of ) Services Center.
UPCOMING AND INAUSPICIOUS -
On Tuesday the Santa Cruz City Council's Public Safety Committee will be meeting 6 PM in City Council chambers to consider a further crackdown on homeless people among other "safety measures". Agenda: [http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/index.aspx?recordid=4709&page=440]. Staff report: [http://www.cityofsantacruz.com/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=30533].
The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent those of Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs as an organization, nor necessarily the views of any of the individuals associated with it.
FNB is looking for volunteers and can be reached via its Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs facebook page.
2013-01-20 "FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST about Food Not Bombs feeding homeless at Santa Cruz Main Post Office" update from John E. Colby of Santa Cruz:
I heard from Robert Norse's radio show about the initial harassment by the Santa Cruz Postmaster and the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) against Food Not Bombs feeding the homeless on the steps of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office about two weeks ago claiming they were trespassing and making a mess.
I offered to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to investigate this matter and pressure the Santa Cruz Postmaster to allow the Food Not Bombs feedings to continue at the Main Post Office. For example, nobody made a fuss when the City Council was giving away medical marijuana on the steps of the very same post office. How is the situation with Food Not Bombs any different? We can't have two sets of rules for those government likes and those it doesn't or we will have a lawless society.
Unfortunately I read an email from Robert yesterday that the harassment was ramped up by the SCPD. Robert will play excerpts of the incidents on his radio show today. I recommend tuning into this.
I don't believe there is a case for federal
trespassing charges. If there are no trespassing signs applicable during
business hours then USPS customers would be considered trespassers.
There must be time and manner restrictions on the post office
trespassing policies. The Postmaster, SCPD and the DA are angling to do
some *selective* enforcement.Because the Santa Cruz Police
Department (SCPD) officers didn't arrest the Food Not Bombs volunteers, I
do not believe the SCPD and the District Attorney's Office have a good
case that they violated any law. It seems like they are harassing them
and trying to do some research to see what law they will try to use to
shut them down.
Consequently, I am submitted the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) request — carbon copied to Congress and the
mainstream media — asking for communications about Food Not Bombs
feedings on the Main Post Office steps and the U.S. Postal Service's
(USPS's) most current policies about private (nonprofit) organizations
using the steps of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office.
Often shaking the tree will glean useful information and put government agencies on notice that they are being watched.---
clarification from Robert Norse: The 2002 City Council under then-Mayor Chris Krohn distributed medical marijuana (to a very select group of people) in front of City Hall not at the main Post Office. (This was the same City Council that essentially shut down all other medical marijuana providers for the five year period from 2000 to 2005, incidentally, if someone starts going on about how liberal Santa Cruz is. "Liberal" if you're a member of WAMM perhaps, otherwise--not.)
2013-01-20 "FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST about Food Not Bombs feeding homeless at Santa Cruz Main Post Office" letter from John E. Colby to FOIA MANAGER RECORDS OFFICE:
ATTN: Jane Eyre, FOIA Public Liaison [475 L'ENFANT PLAZA SW RM 9431, WASHINGTON DC 20260-1101] [Tel: 202.268.2608] [Fax: 202.268.5353] -
Dear Ms. Eyre,
It has come to my attention that the Santa Cruz Main Post Office in conjunction with the Santa Cruz Police Department (SCPD) and the Santa Cruz Office of the District Attorney is trying to criminalize the social justice organization Food Not Bombs feeding (disabled and hungry) homeless people on the steps of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office. Please refer to the Santa Cruz Indymedia article by local activist/journalist Robert Norse about this referenced by the following link: [http://tinyurl.com/ajbl3or]
I do not understand why the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) would disrupt charity feeding of (disabled and hungry) homeless people by Food Not Bombs when the feeding sessions are conducted in a cleanly, sanitary and inoffensive manner that does not disrupt USPS business. At a time when homelessness is at a record high because of economic conditions beyond the control of homeless individuals, I find it offensive that the USPS would collude with the SCPD and the Santa Cruz Office of the District Attorney to criminalize charity performed in the name of re-prioritizing our economy towards peaceful ends rather than towards war making. This is especially pertinent because many (disabled and hungry) homeless individuals are victims of our nation's skewed economic priorities: they are the victims of a war economy. This is even more offensive because nationally 12% of the homeless are veterans who served their country. Please inspect the following informational website: [http://tinyurl.com/b3dladc]
To begin investigating this matter I am submitting a FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST under 5 U.S.C. § 552 commonly known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
I ask for:
* All electronic and non-electronic written communications between employees of the USPS, the Santa Cruz Office of the District Attorney and the SCPD about or pertaining to Food Not Bombs feeding (disabled and hungry) homeless people on the steps of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office at 850 Front Street in Santa Cruz, California, from between November 1, 2012 and today, January 20, 2012.
* The most current USPS policies governing the use of the steps of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office at 850 Front Street in Santa Cruz, California by private (nonprofit) organizations.
I am willing to pay fees up to $60. If you estimate that the fees will exceed this limit, please inform me first before completing my request. However, I request a waiver of all fees for this request. I believe disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it will likely contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interest. Specifically, I intend to share this material with Congress, the carbon copied news media, and with nonprofit advocacy organizations (which I have carbon copied in the past), for their dissemination of information about
why the USPS has targeted Food Not Bombs for their charity feeding of (disabled and hungry) homeless people in Santa Cruz, California. Moreover, I intend to post the requested materials on the Internet for other academic, legal and political researchers to view, so that they may better understand why the USPS would target Food Not Bombs for their charity feeding of (disabled and hungry) homeless people in Santa Cruz, California.
I ask that if the requested materials are electronically available in Portable Document Format (PDF), MS Word Document (DOC), Hypertext Markup (HTM), eXtensible Style Language (XLS), Rich Text Format (RTF), native email formats — like AOL for Windows, Apple Mail, Claris Emailer, Compuserve, EML, Entourage, Eudora, Maildir, MBOX File, Mulberry, Neoplanet, Outlook, Outlook Express, Outspring, Powertalk, Quickmail Pro, Thunderbird, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Yahoo Archive! — or as hyperlinks to the Internet that they be provided to me in those forms, preferably in their native form.
Thank you for fulfilling my request under the FOIA to help provide Congress, nonprofit advocacy organizations and the news media information about the USPS colluding with the SCPD and the Santa Cruz Office of the District Attorney to disrupt the charity feeding of (disabled and hungry) homeless people, approximately 11% of which are veterans who served their country.
[signed] John E. Colby, Ph.D.
2013-01-23 update from John Colby: I called the Santa Cruz Main Post Office today to confirm that the Postmaster had received the fax of my FOIA request which I carbon copied him/her. The postal worker/supervisor I spoke to came back after lengthy silence and told me that I wasn't "entitled". I ask entitled to what? She replied that only the police officers are "entitled". I responded that my FOIA request wasn't to the Santa Cruz Post Office and that the Washington DC USPS FOIA liaison hadn't made a determination so she had no place telling me what I was or was not entitled to.
This conversation suggests to me that the Santa Cruz Postmaster contacted the FOIA liaison and illegally requested information about my FOIA request. This does not bode well for the USPS FOIA liaison.
I plan on making many more FOIA requests about the Santa Cruz Postmaster to the USPS. I think the Santa Cruz Postmaster has a lot to hide.
2013-01-29 update from John Colby: After Food Not Bombs was coerced to move from the Santa Cruz Main Post Office steps in last Saturday's feeding of poor and homeless people on January 26, 2013, I decided that more information must be gleaned from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to determine exactly what laws and regulations apply to the steps of the Main Post Office and who was responsible for the USPS campaign in Santa Cruz against Food Not Bombs. Please read my FOIA request as a downloadable PDF.
Therefore I asked for:
• All electronic and non-electronic written communications including but not limited to letters, reports, summaries, memoranda, emails, and notes written by employees of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office about or pertaining to Food Not Bombs feeding homeless people on the steps of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office at 850 Front Street in Santa Cruz, California, from between December 1, 2012 and today, January 28, 2013.
• All written complaints by customers of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office about Food Not Bombs from between December 1, 2012 and today, January 28, 2013.
• The most current organization chart for the Santa Cruz Main Post Office.
• The most current handbook sections, guides, rules and implementing documents describing federal regulations and laws governing the use of the steps of the Santa Cruz Main Post Office at 850 Front Street in Santa Cruz, California by both private (nonprofit) organizations and by private individuals.
Hopefully this will lead to a greater understanding of the USPS campaign against Food Not Bomb's feeding poor and homeless people on the Santa Cruz Main Post Office steps, who is responsible for it, and whether Food Not Bombs can legally return to using the Main Post Office steps.
The best weapon against tyranny is to shine a light on it. We can open up undemocratic decision making processes to public scrutiny.
2013-01-21 "Support for SC Food Not Bombs" by Robert Norse:I received the following e-mail today from supporters up North:
I support fully, but don't in anyway represent Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs. Those preparing and serving the food as well as those eating it will make their own decisions about the so-called "trespass" concerns.
It seems peculiar to suggest that particular group with a political message that is committing no crime other than using the public space is told it is "trespassing" while others come and go with the area clearly open to the public.
Occupy Santa Cruz voted yesterday to support Food Not Bombs. I encourage other groups to do the same and to show up at the next meal as well as offer whatever support they can from a distance if that is not possible.
Though not privy to the inner decision-making of FNB, I imagine they would appreciate as big a crowd of supporters at their next feeding which is currently scheduled for 4 PM Saturday January 26th. on the (public?) steps of the Main Post Office in downtown Santa Cruz.
I believe they'll be considering how to best respond to the recent police and post office threats at their weekly meeting, which can be found on their facebook page.
According to Steve Pleich, one Food Not Bombs member reports Sgt. Garcia said the postmaster was threatening federal Felony Trespass Arrests. Pleich reports that according to that member a warning was given. As I was there at the time recording the conversation between Garcia and the activists, I didn't hear any clear demand that everyone leave given by either SCPD officer.
I did arrive a few minutes after the first cop (Officer Bayani) arrived. And when I spoke to him and wanted to know if he was speaking as the owner's agent, he backed off and said I should speak with his sergeant. In a subsequent discussion with another FNB member, Garcia said he was "gathering evidence" but gave no clearly audible warning to the group of people gathered there that I heard.
Still given the bizarre overcharging done by the Santa Cruz District Attorney in the case of the Santa Cruz Eleven (again due in court 8:15 AM Tuesday January 22nd D-6), that's something to be seriously considered. See http://www.santacruzeleven.org for more info on that ongoing persecution.
This case obviously impacts many other groups and people and represents yet another ratcheting up of the governmental shutdown of public spaces for politically dissenters.
[signed] In Solidarity, Anne of "Right 2 Survive" (Portland OR)
* Link to a FNB page put together after arrests in Daytona last year. [http://www.foodnotbombs.net/fnb_resists.html]
* Link to a WA Post article about those arrests.WA Post article about Daytona FNB arrests
2013-01-20 "OFFICIALS TRY TO STOP FOOD NOT BOMBS ON MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WEEKEND"
by Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs [P.O. Box 424, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA] [www.foodnotbombs.net]. Posted at [http://blog.foodnotbombs.net/officials-try-to-stop-food-not-bombs-on-martin-luther-king-jr-weekend/]:
This is such an interesting way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr’s weekend. Police are seeking to stop Food Not Bombs in Burlington, Vermont and Santa Cruz, California. At the same time a mission in Seattle, Washington has been told to stop sharing food in public. Food Not Bombs has been sharing near the same location in Seattle on and off for over 20 years.
The first arrests for sharing food in public started in 1988 when the San Francisco police began an eight year campaign to stop Food Not Bombs making over 1,000 arrests. Many volunteers were beaten and some required hospitalization. This followed the first eight years of Reaganomics which increased the number of people seeking food and shelter to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Reagan era policies of diverting public spending from healthcare, education and other domestic needs towards America’s largest military build-up ever contributed to a dramatic increase in poverty.
Laws criminalizing the homeless and attempts to restrict the sharing of meals in public started first in California, Florida, New York City, and soon to every area of the United States as the number of homeless increased. The National Guard held workshops at bases across the United States in November 1988 using Food Not Bombs the example of America’s “most hardcore terrorist group.” In April 2009 The United States State Department clarified their reasoning noting in a lecture that Food Not Bombs was more dangerous than Al quad since the volunteers were friendly and have been abel to encourage the public to believe that America might really be more secure if it diverted some military spending towards healthcare, education and other domestic needs. So the Federal government implemented two tracks in it’s effort to silence Food Not Bombs. One was to disrupt the sharing of food and information to the public, the other to frame volunteers in FBI designed plots of violence or terrorism. Keith McHenry Connor Cash, and Josh Connole were among the first framed as terrorists because of their involvement with Food Not Bombs. Today Food Not Bombs volunteers Brandon Baxter, Connor Stevens, Eric McDavid and Jeremy Hammond live behind bars as a result of the government’s campaign to silence opposition to the policies that are forcing so many to seek food at soup kitchens and food banks.
The United States Justice Department supported this nationwide campaign to develop “quality of life” laws at the end of Reagan’s administration. The Community Oriented Policing Services program of the Justice Department provided business leaders and local governments with templates on anti-homeless laws, anti- homeless architecture and media campaigns the most popular being laws against sleeping outside or sitting in commercial areas. They also started to implement the “give a hand up not a hand out” campaign where people were encouraged to donated to charities that shared meals inside in areas where the homeless could be lured to the low income or industrial areas of town. In 1985 Federal officials started to report that nearly 750,000 Americans were homeless, a number still quoted today in stories about poverty in the United States. (Google “750,000 homeless Americans” and see how this number has not changed since 1985.) It is hard to imagine that there has not been any increases in the number of homeless in the past 25 years. This also marks the time when Food Not Bombs volunteers and some churches started to face arrest for sharing food in public.
City officials welcomes these policies and followed the federal governments lead hoping to drive the problem out of sight and discourage public pressure to increase provide services and increase taxes. The project was designed to appear to be locally desired, designed and implemented even though it was really coordinated and encouraged at a Federal level with workshops at state and national conferences of police chiefs, city attorneys, and mayors on such subjects “What to do if Food Not Bombs Starts in Your Community,” the sharing of “quality of life laws” and media campaigns designed to encourage the public to believe that the poor had only themselves to blame for their problems and that once they visited the Salvation Army or local city service center they would “recover” and enter society again. Any discussion of economic and political policies contributing to the increase in poverty was to be silenced. The ideas shared by Food Not Bombs at their meal were of course to be discouraged. If not arrested the government had other methods. Informants were sent to help by discarding the banners and literature and suggest local groups change their name “to be less political.” If that was not effective informants suggested moving to a “better” location where no one would walk by and no one would ever know that Food Not Bombs was still active. That trick was done in San Francisco after the first 94 arrests when volunteers were convinced to share in some tall bushes away from the entrance to Golden Gate Park. Not one person visited the table from September 1988 to June 1989 even though before the city started to interfere volunteers had been speaking to dozens of new people every Monday as they entered Golden Gate Park.
In 2006 a number of Florida cities started to pass laws banning or limiting the sharing of meals in public. The city of Orlando defended it’s large group feeding law in Federal court winning in 2011. The city started arresting the Food Not Bombs volunteers until public pressure was too much and the mayor ended the campaign.
In September 2011 people started to join Occupy Wall Street with the message that corporate and government policies were responsible for the increase in poverty and suffering. Thousands of people occupied their public squares seeking to change society where no one would be forced out of their homes and find themselves needing find food at a food pantry or soup kitchen. After the Obama administration was able to drive most of the occupations out of sight in a well coordinated nation wide campaign of police violence and propaganda, cities started to adopt new laws limiting the sharing of food in public. Authorities seemed to have realized on key to the success of the occupations was the availability of free meals. Philadelphia, Houston, Santa Monica, Daytona Beach and nearly 40 other cities introduced new laws or started to implement past rules limiting the sharing of meals in public. A number of cities were able to use less dramatic methods encouraging Food Not Bombs volunteers to share their meals without banners or literature or by moving to a location where no one would pass by and their ability to inspire action would be eliminated.
Fortunately public pressure has disrupted efforts to enforce restrictions on the sharing of food and literature in public. We hope this will be the case in Burlington, Vermont and Santa Cruz, California which are being told they must move their meals and information to a less visible location or face arrest. The authorities realized that sharing free food under the banner Food Not Bombs can inspire public support for change. One successful example can be seen in the Saturday meal in Iceland where the shock of people seeking food and the discussion inspired by Food Not Bombs literature inspired a weekly march to parliament. These marches pushed the government out of power. So far Iceland is the only country to refuse to bail out the banks in response to the campaign that started as a conversation at the weekly Reykjavík Food Not Bombs meal.
It is ironic that in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday two of America’s most progressive cities are seeking to drive Food Not Bombs out of site. Please return to see if officials did arrest the volunteers in Santa Cruz and Burlington.
* 2013-01-20 "(Vermont ) Burlington Food Not Bombs meal" [http://www.facebook.com/events/488487241201931]: Come to Church and Cherry St. for free food and to help us transform the space. There’s usually produce to take away along with hot soup and coffee.
* 2013-01-19 "Food Not Bombs Under Attack at Its 4 PM Saturday Feeding on the Main Post Office Steps" by Robert Norse [http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/01/19/18730563.php]: Arriving with warnings and cameras, two uniformed officers threatened Food Not Bombs workers with criminal actions today for staffing a table distributing meals to hungry and homeless people. The sergeant noted he’d be forwarding information to District Attorney Bob Lee’s office for further action and interrogated several of the workers there while photographing those eating, those serving, and those watching. I sent the following letter to Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry: [message reproduced elsewhere in this Northbay Uprising news compilation]
* 2013-01-20 message to Robert Norse from Keith McHenry:
I was so pleased to received a call from one of the staff people at the Burlington Downtown Partnership. He called wanting to “work with us” saying he would waive the $2 fee for doing the literature table on Church Street but that we could not share food as "it had caused problems in the past." He explained that businesses sold food on Church Street and that places like the Salvation Army would be better able to provide services for the homeless like job referral. He seemed like a nice person but did use the same exact language that has been used by officials in other cities. He didn’t know how our sharing food was a problem but said an outreach worker would call to explain.
I seemed to have really frustrated him because I explained that if we didn’t share food with our literature the impact of our message would be diminished
Every time he said he “just wanted to work with us” I asked if there was a good place on Church Street where our sharing food at our literature table would not be a problem. In the end it was clear that working with him was to not share food and send people to the Salvation Army, COTS or share food someplace out of sight.
This person will come to talk with you on Sunday to see if he can get you to stop sharing your food or move out of the area.
While he also tried to make it out that Burlington is special (just as the other city officials have claimed in every other city that wishes we would stop) and that by speaking with you you will see the logic to ending the meal or moving it to a less visible location for me I would see about doing what I could to stay where you are.
From my perspective it has never been more important to reach the most people possible with the most impact we can about the need to change society so no one is forced to eat at the Salvation Army. Maybe it would be possible to move across the street or to the side walk at the commons I would support doing all you can to express the importance of encouraging change and suggest that it is already hard to encourage the public to consider solutions to our current economic and political problems.
The fact that this pattern is so universal across the United States and so many Food Not Bombs groups have moved to ineffective locations shows this is more than just a problem for your chapter.
I would support your efforts in any way. You may want to claim this Sundays meal or the meal after that as a rally for the right to end hunger. The staff person says he will email me so I will get you that email when he sends it. Again he might not know he was saying exactly the same thing word for word that officials in other cities have said to explain why we should not share food in a place where lots of people pass by but it sure seems like he was influenced maybe unknowingly by those organizing this nationwide campaign. Please call me if you have any questions. – 1-800-884-1136 or email me at [email@example.com].
This is the number and organization that called: Burlington Downtown Partnership [802-865-7254] [2 Church Street, Suite 2A Burlington, VT 05401] [firstname.lastname@example.org] [www.downtownburlingtonvt.com] The office is open for walk-ins Monday through Friday, 12 noon to 4 p.m. To purchase a Marketplace street entertainer or vendor license or non-profit tabling permit, contact the Marketplace office. The permits and licenses are available by appointment only. For information and to schedule an appointment send an email to permits and licensing or call 802.865.5384.
* This a one of many public statements reflecting a nationwide campaign to drive the homeless out of site. This one is from Orlando Florida and signed by the charities such as Salvation Army that received city funding: "…though we understand the motivation of those who wish to alleviate the suffering of the homeless in our community, solving homelessness involves more than a warm meal and a place to sleep. Homelessness is symptomatic of much larger issues. Such public feedings may well contribute to homelessness and actually keep the homeless from the essential services necessary to get back on the road to self-sufficiency. One of the vital keys to assisting these men, women and families is providing comprehensive case-management services. This includes access to the tools needed to attain independence, truly giving them a “hand up” to a better life."
* Hey Keith, We’re all having a good laugh here. Something about imagining the very very serious mannered bureaucrats we dealt with last week calling up New Mexico is great. We had been dreading the upcoming showdown this Sunday. One comment was something like “they couldn’t have called someone better equipped”. I’d agree. It’s a happy coincidence they called you as we were researching and looking for guidance on what to do. Our plan now is to be prepared and establish who is arrestable before meals and do some non-violent civil disobedience if there’s lots of people around. If it wouldn’t make a strong enough statement we may retreat to the edge of the park (not the middle) and come back later to see what happens for a second time. Maybe even just wait an hour or until the next week. Our friends on city council in the progressive party have offered to do what they can. Not sure if that will amount to anything but its nice to know they’re watching and willing to make noise in council meets. We’ll see how it unfolds. I’m going to send your message out to the listserve if that’s cool with you. Solidarity, [signed] Ethan
* Mission in Seattle told to stop sharing meals in public: [http://www.activistpost.com/2013/01/70-year-old-food-charity-told-to-stop.html]