Food Not Bombs ARRESTS - Cleveland FNB press release 24 Dec 1999

Tom Boland (
Fri, 24 Dec 1999 13:56:01 -0800 (PST)

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PLEASE CIRCULATE this alert to people who support civil liberties:

See also related AP news article:
Associated Press - Thursday December 23, 1999 11:45 PM ET
By M.R. KROPKO - Associated Press Writer


Subject: Cleveland FNB- press release
Date:  Fri, 24 Dec 1999 12:42:20 PST
From:  "Rob LaBuda" <>

Food Not Bombs
Press Release 12/24/99

On December 22nd, five people were arrested in Public Square for having
erected a tent for homeless people to sleep in.  The tent was constructed by
Cleveland Food Not Bombs, with support from various homeless people and
community activists.  This was done in response to a month of city pressure
to sweep homeless people from the sidewalks of popular shopping areas and
steam vents, which kept them warm at night.  The policy was announced the
day after Thanksgiving, the most popular shopping day of the year.

Food Not Bombs has been serving free hot vegetarian meals on Public Square
for the past four years.  On December 6th, we joined the Northeast Ohio
Coalition for the Homeless, community members and homeless people at a
Cleveland City Council meeting in a barrage of protest and resistance to the
then newly announced policy.  Councilman Joe Cimperman met with us after the
meeting to discuss the policy as well as potential solutions involving the
26 million-dollar city budget surplus.  The Mayor has resisted meeting with
City Council on the issue.

On the coldest day of the year, Food Not Bombs (being concerned about the
safety of homeless people), constructed a tent at four p.m. in Public Square
to provide warmth and shelter for those who could not find space in the
city's over-crowded shelters.  We came with hot food, blankets, clothing,
space heaters, and a recipe of compassion and support.  At 7 p.m., we were
approached by Rubin Sheppard (a City Safety Director), inviting a few of us
to come into Tower City to discuss our issues.  The meeting was conducted by
Mr. Sheppard, Nina Turner (a Mayor's assistant in external affairs), and
Mike Thomas, a representative of the Downtown Development Corporation (the
current renters of Public Square who constructed the lighting displays, ice
skating rink and other decorations).  They expressed concern about our
safety and asked if there was anything that we needed.  We said, "yes,
homes."  They informed us that we were in violation of the law, but that
they would have to talk with their supervisors before making their next

Throughout the evening, we were greeted by many community well wishers with
food, clothing, and their support.  Hundreds of people were affected by this
display of the situation of homelessness in Cleveland.  At 3 o'clock in the
morning, in the absence of the media and public eye, police surrounded the
square.  With dozens of cars, a fire truck and an ambulance, they tore down
the shelter and confiscate food, blankets, and all other provisions that had
been left for the homeless. Five people were arrested while Mayor White
watched from above in a cozy Renaissance hotel room.

Those arrested included both homeless people and advocates, four of whom
have been released.  Three will be arraigned on Monday December 27th at 9
a.m., and one on Tuesday 9 a.m.  Despite persistent inquiries, the city has
withheld the identity of the fifth arrestee and all information about his
arraignment.  The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless has also been
extremely active in defending these individuals with all available

Also Dec. 22nd, the ACLU issued a letter to the Mayor demanding the halt of
the unconstitutional practice of sweeping the homeless off the streets or
face legal action.  On the 23rd, the ACLU offered not to file their lawsuit
if the city would stop the sweeps and drop all charges against those
arrested.  The city refused. Yesterday (December 23rd), the ACLU filed a
lawsuit in Federal District Court "challenging the constitutionality of the
ordinances Cleveland uses to justify rousting homeless people" -Cleveland
Plain Dealer 12/24/99.  As a result, a twenty-day restraining order was
issued by Judge Paul Matia limiting the areas in which the city can enforce
the law.

Food Not Bombs will continue our undying support for the homeless.  We
provide meals on Public Square every Sunday at 4:30pm.  Please join us on
December 26th or any other Sunday.

We are seeking donations for the defense of the arrestees.  Please send
checks payable to Elena Tootell, 2920 E. Derbyshire Rd., Cleveland Heights,

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