Feeding the Hungry Is Not A Crime


America's War On the Poor, Chap. 764: The day before a holiday honoring a civil rights icon who believed in "an inescapable network of mutuality" connecting us all, police in the southern Californian city of El Cajon enforced a new ban on “food sharing” in public places by arresting a dozen people for feeding homeless humans in a park. The volunteers were handing out breakfast bars and fruit along with socks, soap and other supplies when police arrived and charged them with violating the ordinance passed in October; it forbids sharing food, as well as panhandling, sleeping on the sidewalk and sleeping in tents on public ground. Officials argued the law was needed in the city, which has a high poverty rate and soaring homeless population, to help stem an outbreak of hepatitis A. The city has also sprayed streets and sidewalks with cleansing formula, urged vaccinations, and added hand-washing stations in areas where the homeless congregate.

What they have not done, say critics, is enforce the ban on anyone but homeless people. At Sunday's event, members of Break the Ban and other activists charged police are allowing picnics, birthday parties and soccer team celebrations - all with food - to continue unhindered in the same park, as though "everyone else is magically immune from hepatitis A." They view the ban as simply targeting the homeless as part of an ongoing national trend toward criminalizing the poor - one that feels deeply wrong. Break the Ban, said one organizer, "does not believe that (what) our country was built upon in any way makes the arrests of people feeding homeless people okay" - or as one of those charged put it, "If I'm going to be arrested for something, let it be for feeding the homeless." Like other national groups, they plan a legal fight with the support of the ACLU, which argues the ban is unconstitutional and unnecessarily cruel. Add degrading, said one homeless man: "It's like, don't feed the humans at the park. It makes you feel like you're smaller." "How are we supposed to live?" he asked. "Are we not human?” In our current shithole country, evidently not.

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