[diggers350] A criminal act of kindness

Tony Gosling tony at gaia.org
Wed Feb 23 14:52:12 GMT 2000

> The Pitt News, 21 February 2000, A1
> A criminal act of kindness
> Kate Zangrilli
> Staff Writer
> 	For Bob Bovy McFadden, Sundays are a welcome relief. Relief from
> hunger. On Sundays, a city group called Food Not Bombs provides free,
> multiple-course vegetarian meals to the hungry in Market Square Downtown.
> Threatening citations, two policeman sent members of Food Not Bombs away
> Feb. 13 on the grounds that they lacked a health permit to distribute free
> meals.
> 	"I like all you people down here," McFadden said. "As long as the
> damn cops don't get you. They were here last week, jumping all over you
> people. I don't know why."
> 	Despite the run-in with Zone 2 police last week, the local
> philanthropists returned yesterday to continue their tradition of feeding
> Downtown's poor and homeless. No arrests were made, and amid a sea of
> about seven media cameras, police did not issue any citations.
> 	Instead, about 30 Food Not Bombs members set up coolers, a giant
> bag of bagels and several bins of salad, apples, muffins and tofu
> casseroles. They also arranged donated shoes and slacks for the taking.
> 	The Pittsburgh chapter of Food Not Bombs, an international
> organization, began operating eight years ago. After organizing the food
> cafeteria-style, some members began an old-style garbage-can band,
> fashioning drums out of cans and buckets and tapping sticks against the
> iron fence. One homeless man started dancing to their beat.
> 	Meanwhile, other Food Not Bombs workers distributed wrapped peanut
> butter and jelly sandwiches to the hungry. For the past two years, members
> have prepared the Sunday meal at the South Oakland house of Pitt senior
> Jim Robinson, who joined the group as a freshman."I knew it was a good
> thing, so I thought I'd lend a hand," he said. Overall, Robinson counts
> about 15 Pitt students involved in the organization.
> 	"It's interesting that we haven't had any problems for eight
> years," he said, as he linked last week's incident to the city’s plan to
> redevelop the area around Fifth and Forbes avenues close to where Market
> Street is located. While Robinson said he wasn't surprised at the police
> action, he doesn't expect to give in.
> 	"[The homeless] have rights like anyone else," he said. "We're not
> going to back down. This is something we believe in." The group received
> e-mails from other chapters across the country, and the support has
> fortified the local group's efforts, he said. The amount of media
> attention the police confrontation garnered the group was unexpected.
> 	"We've never gotten media coverage before this," Robinson
> said.Fred Price, a former homeless volunteer with Operation Save A Life,
> said the media attention chased many homeless people away. Fewer than 10
> homeless people came for meals yesterday. Usually, 30 to 50 attend.
> 	Price said homeless and marginally housed people depend on the
> Food Not Bombs lunch for two reasons: food and companionship. Old friends
> greet each other across the square; new friends are made in line for
> water.  "They don't have any ulterior motive except to share what they
> have," he said. Price fears that other organizations with a similar intent
> will be targeted soon after Food Not Bombs is restricted. He cited similar
> meals being served by other groups on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays.
> 	Representatives from the Mosque Avengers, an organization formed
> in opposition to the Fifth-Forbes project; Carnegie Mellon University’s
> Student Union; the Pitt chapter of Students in Solidarity; a high-school
> chapter of Amnesty International; and the Thomas Merton Center, an
> social-justice organization that provides office space for grass-roots
> organizations, were present to give their support.
> 	Vince Eirene, who owns a homeless shelter on the North Side,
> blames city officials for last week's event. "The mayor's office and the
> city should be ashamed of themselves. They should be encouraging people to
> care for people and not make that a crime,"  he said.
> 	Past newspaper reports quote Mayor Tom Murphy’s spokesman as
> saying that the city never ordered police to issue citations to volunteers
> who don't have permits to serve food. Cara Wiegand, a member of Food Not
> Bombs and a student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, said police
> demanded that the organization obtain a health permit.
> 	"But why would we make food that we wouldn't eat ourselves?" she
> asked.The food is donated by Einstein Brothers Bagels, East End Food Co-Op
> and other food establishments that would otherwise throw the food away.
> Wiegand questioned another concern expressed by city officials, who stated
> that free food took away business from Downtown establishments. "On
> Sunday, nothing's ever open. They are just trying to hide that there is a
> problem with homelessness," she said.
> 	Food Not Bombs was founded in Boston in 1980, according to the
> group’s Web page. The organization is based on the principles of
> nonviolence and "food recycling," taking unwanted food from restaurants
> and other establishments and giving it to the homeless. There are 70
> autonomous chapters. Jason Angse, a member of the Pittsburgh chapter, said
> it is important to bring attention to the plight of the poor.
> 	"Out of sight, out of mind is what they want, and it simply does
> not solve the problem. It's just wrong. We're the first beginning step to
> change that," he said. Angse added, "There's a lot of food that's thrown
> away and a lot of people that are hungry. ... Put those two together, and
> people are not hungry; food is not wasted."
> 	The Web page also details the struggles of the San Francisco
> chapter, which has faced censure. Since 1988, the city of San Francisco
> has arrested more than 1,000 Food Not Bombs members for distributing food
> without permits. Unable to find recourse in the legal system, the chapter
> appealed to Amnesty International to have those sanctioned members
> declared prisoners of conscience.
> the pitt news
>   vegetarian, nonviolence, consensus
> -Food Not Bombs List     fnb-l at lists.tao.ca
> -distributing food in opposition to violence
> -archive: http://archive.foodnotbombs.ca
> -active cities: http://webcom.com/peace
> -send '(un)subscribe fnb-l'  to lists at tao.ca


<sffnb at iww.org> Signature File Of Thursday 20 January 2000

Communications from this e-mail address <sffnb at iww.org> DO NOT necessarily
reflect views of the San Francisco Food Not Bombs organization, unless it
is otherwise indicated. The information content and opinions expressed in
this communication are from individual members, allies and affiliates of
San Francisco Food Not Bombs.

San Francisco Food Not Bombs
P.O. Box 40485
San Francisco, California 94140

Phone:      + 1-415-675-9928

E-Mail:     < sffnb at iww.org > and < sffnb at dojo.tao.ca >

Web Page:   < http://www.foodnotbombs.org >

Tony Gosling <tony at gaia.org>

5 Warden Road

Telephone +44(0)117 953 1256

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