Nine people were busted at Wells Park in the city of El Cajon on Sunday for distributing food to homeless people. Those handing out food were arrested, given a misdemeanor citation with a date to appear in court and released. Nobody went to jail.
Activists calling themselves Break the Ban began Sunday food distribution after the City Council unanimously passed an emergency ordinance in October prohibiting the distribution of food on any city-owned property.
Homeless advocates have called the law a punitive attempt at dehumanizing and criminalizing people in unfortunate circumstances, largely the result of every increasing economic inequality.
El Cajon police wrote up citations to each person handing out food, including 14-year-old Ever Parmley. “I was passing out food and this guy was like can you step aside please,” she told NBC 7.
They were each charged with a misdemeanor for violating El Cajon municipal code 1.28.010. The ordinance prohibits “food sharing” in public spaces, which includes City parks.
The NBC7 reporter closed her report with a claim about trash being left at the park citing it as a reason why feeding the homeless was bad. Organizer Mark Lane responded on Facebook:
Shame on Channel 7/39 reporter Mackenzie Maynard for this report insinuating that we left trash in the park. We left the park cleaner than we found it. We served no one any drinks in styrofoam cups with straws. Of everything that was happening out there including our constitutional rights being trampled on, she pulled a couple of pieces of trash out of the trash can and chose to report on that. What an incredible misrepresentation of our event.
This weekend’s act of civil disobedience was in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., according to participants and plans have been announced to do the same thing in two weeks.
From the Union-Tribune’s coverage:
About 40 more people, including several lawyers, also were there, but not actively passing out food. Some of those carried signs that had slogans like “Feeding the hungry is not a crime.”
While the event was intended to feed members of the homeless, it was also part of the group’s plan to legally contest the ordinance.
“It was absolutely necessary to beak this law until they were willing to enforce it, and, now that they have, we will continue this fight in court,” said another organizer, Shane Parmely.
Years of neglect and failed promises to ever-increasing numbers of unsheltered people, Southern California cities have responded to an outbreak of Hepatitis A with harassment, arrests, and sweeps of homeless camps.
From Fox5’s coverage:
“This park is part of city property, so you’re not allowed to food share. If you guys continue to food share then you are subject to arrest,” an El Cajon police officer said.
“If you are having a birthday party here that’s perfectly legal you may feed anyone you wish at a birthday party. Your soccer team, they win, they come here let’s have a pizza party, no problem that’s completely legal,” event organizer Leslie Gollub said. “The only people not allowed to be served in this park and all of El Cajon are the homeless.”
“That is a basic human right to have food,” said Nicole D’Angelo, another event organizer. “Hepatitis A is spread by human feces and not washing your hands after you use the bathroom. Not only does the city have the restrooms closed where there is no running water to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, there’s also trash here contaminated with human feces not being picked up by the city. That’s what spreads Hepatitis A, not by feeding people.”
Hey I know that #BadassWoman it’s retired SD City worker and activists supreme Michelle Krug, she’s #blind and has serious mobility issues and is always willing to help she’s a #TrueBeliever #1u #MLKDayofService2018 #ElCajonYouAreBetterThanThis
— Tom Lemmon (@Lemmonsdtrades) January 15, 2018
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