ALERT: SF Food Not Bombs threatened with arrest - Call officials!

Tom Boland (
Mon, 4 Oct 1999 05:23:13 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Date: Mon, 04 Oct 1999 00:33:33 -0700 (MST)
Non-member submission to HPN from "firebrat" <>


On Saturday, Oct. 2 the Coalition on Homelessness held a rally
at the Civic Ceonter, marking the beginning of a National Civil Rights
campaign. As they handed out free sack lunches to those in attendance, the
SFPD informed them that if they continued to serve food without a permit,
the permit for the rally would be revoked.

	As the rally wound down, Food Not Bombs began serving dinner  in
adjacent United Nations Plaza.  Minutes after the servers set up, the SFPD
approached and threatened arrest if they did not cease sharing food
without a permit.  The officer radioed for backup when FNB refused to stop
serving, answering questions about the need for arrest only with a
repetitious "because it's illegal." In response to the police presence,
thirty people hanging out after the rally began chanting in support and
walked over to surround the food table. The police spent the duration of
the serving waiting by the squad car but did not move in to arrest.

	Continued harassment by the police of FNB and other groups trying
to share free food in public spaces is unacceptable. We must increase the
pressure on City Hall to take steps towards dealing with San Francisco's
housing crisis and poverty problem- not let them get away criminalizing
the people themselves and their advocates.  SF FNB appreciates all the
support that has been extended to us, and it is crucial right now that we
demonstrate to the City how much solidarity and strength this community

	Following is an article written by FNB organizer Chris Crass for
this month's Street Spirit. At the end is a list of phone numbers and
email addresses for local officials who need to hear our voices regarding
the ongoing police harassment.

Arrest that Soup!  Police order Food Not Bombs to put down the ladle
-Chris Crass

San Francisco Food Not Bombs has a long history of harassment and
repression on the part of City Hall and the police.  Over the past ten
years we have been arrested hundreds of times, our food confiscated as
evidence or dumped into the gutter, threats by police made to our members,
our literature about economic inequality and local protests seized along
with our banners and signs.  We were arrested in Golden Gate Park and in
Civic Center under the Agnos administration and arrested repeatedly in
Civic Center and United Nations Plaza under the Jordan administration.
 So when the police have approached us to inform us that we were in
violation of the law and that we must cease sharing free food in United
Nations Plaza, many said, "oh no, not again."
 When Willie Brown ran for Mayor in 95, along with all of the other
candidates running against Frank Jordan, he stated in the Bay Guardian
that he opposed Jordan's policies on homelessness, that he was against the
police arresting FNB and that he would dismantle the infamous Matrix
program which criminalized homeless people for "Quality of Life"
infractions.  Additionally, Terence Hallinan, who was then running for
District Attorney, repeatedly stated that he opposed the repression
against FNB and that once elected he would not prosecute anyone for
serving free food with FNB.  Many people believed that the times of police
arresting or harassing people for sharing food were over.  However an
election for Mayor quickly approaches us.
  "Criminalizing Food Not Bombs's First Amendment activities is a
reiteration of the same weary scene that has played out in Act IV of the
last three Mayoral administrations, from a script that traditionally
includes three years of do-nothing homeless policies," said Chance Martin
of the Coalition on Homelessness.  He further stated, "As the scene
unfolds, FNB's food servings are suddenly portrayed by the City as a
health risk... The real agenda here is that FNB is regarded by Quality of
Life' proponents as a 'magnet' for visible homelessness, as if providing
vital nourishment to destitute human beings somehow creates poverty and
hunger."  The Coalition on Homelessness is currently organizing a rally
for October 2nd to kick off a National Civil Rights Organizing Project.
  On Friday Sept 3rd and Sunday Sept. 12th, Food Not Bombs activists were
told that our community meal was in violation of the law, and that we
faced citations unless we packed up and left.  On the 3rd, police gave two
FNBers citations for 'selling food without a permit' regardless of the
fact that we distribute food for free.  On the 12th, three officers rolled
up on FNB and told us that we need to stop serving.  The officer in charge
said that the Health Dept. would be coming to UN Plaza and issuing
citations for serving without a permit (a permit that neither the Health
Dept nor the City currently issue). The Health Dept. official, who was
called by the police, reportedly said, "I don't want to come down there
and get involved'.  Strong support for FNB from people eating at UN Plaza
was expressed to the police.  When the police appraoched the FNB server to
get ID, two men waiting in line for soup immediately volunteered to serve
the food in a show of solidarity.  The officer declined to take IDs.
    On October 2nd the SFPD approached FNB members who were serving in UN
Plaza at the end of the Coalition on Homelessness's rally kicking off a
national Civil Rights campaign effort.  The FNBers were told that they
muststop serving food or be arrested.  Around 30 people from the rally
surrounded the FNB table and started chanting.  The police maintained
presense but back off from arresting anyone.
  The recent harassment of FNB is part of a larger plan to eliminate
homeless and low-income people from Civic Center and United Nations Plaza.
  The Board of Supervisors recently voted to make UN Plaza an official
park of the City, falling under the jurisdiction of the Dept of Park and
Rec.  Park and Rec has begun posting new regulations in UN Plaza that
prohibit homeless people from being in the area from 10pm
 to 6am.  Using
the police to force homeless people out of visible areas has long been a
tactic used by elected officials, especially when they are up for
 In response to this tactic, Clare Bayard, an FNB organizer, said "San
Francisco is just trying to maintain its national reputation as one of the
nastiest cities toward homeless folx.  As elections approach, the police
have stepped up their harassment of the homeless and their advocates in a
sadly i
ronic attempt to remove from visibility everyone who is obviously
suffering under the system and anyone who supports their civil and
economic rights."  Bayard also said, "There's no interest in fixing the
real problems, just in creati
ng the appearance that the City has act
ually>done something about the 14,000 people with nowhere else to ge
ublic spaces. The City has no empathy a
nd we [FNB] have no tolerance for
  In addition to FNB's recent visits from the police, a free lunch program
organized by a group of students from Marin's Branson High School was
ordered to cease their efforts to eliminate hunger in SF.  On Sept. 11th,
the students went to Civic Center to hand out sack lunches as they have
for over five years
.  The students where threatened with arrest from the
group of police who arrived in several police cars and a van.  The
students were literally chased out of the City's Civic Center for acting
on their civic duty to help other citizens.
  The story of the students generated front-page stories in the Examiner
and the Chronicle which then led to a compromise deal from the City.  If
ya move to Boedekker Park in the heart of the Tenderloin, the police will
not arrest you, the students were told by City Hall.  Somehow, food
distributed in a less visible park, hidden amongst the poverty of the
Tenderloin is safer and does not pose a health risk.  Whereas the same
food, served under the same conditions in Civic Center poses a grave risk
to the health of homeless people?  Moreover, while free food programs like
the ones organized by the Marin students and FNB are heavily
scrutinized by the City for supposed health and safety concerns, poor
people eating
out of trash cans and/or dying on the street due to exposure seems to go
  Sister Bernie Galvin, founder and director of Religious Witness with
Homeless People, has been organizing for years to make City Hall notice
the inhumanity and injustice of poverty in SF.  Galvin and Religious
Witness have organized countless protests, vigils and acts of non-violent
civil disobedience to win affordable housing for low-income and no-income
people and families.  Galvin has recently stated, "I have joined FNB in
serving those meals in UN Plaza, and I will continue to do so.  This act
of compassion of helping poor and hungry people is done in a reverent,
respectful, warm and gracious manner.  Furthermore, if Mayor Brown does
not back down from this threat [to stop FNB], I will organize the support
of religious leaders to protect the right and responsibility of FNB and
all people of faith to follow the mandate of all faith traditions to 'feed
the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless..."
  Food Not Bombs activists hope to generate an enormous out-pouring of
support and solidarity from the larger social justice movement and
concerned citizens from around the world.  Already emails of support have
been sent to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors from dozens of
activists>>from as far away as Toronto, Canada and Sydney, Australia.  FNB
is working
to build community and political support now, so as to avoid further
harassment and repression from the City.  FNB hopes that this support and
solidarity will demonstrate a widely felt commitment to address the real
causes of poverty and homelessness rather than policies which punish and
persecute the poor.

  FNB requests that people either call or email the Mayor and Board of
Supervisors and ask them to end the harassment of FNB and other food
providers and work on securing real affordable housing instead.

Mayor Willie Brown 415.554.6141 or
Board President Tom Ammiano 415.554.5144 or
Supervisor Sue Bierman 415.554.6661 or
Supervisor Amos Brown 415.554.7601 or
Supervisor Leslie Katz 415.554.5335 or
Supervisor Barbara Kaufman 415.554.4880
Supervisor Mark Leno 415.554.7734 or
Supervisor Gavin Newsom 415.554.5942 or
Supervisor Mabel Teng 415.554.4981 or
Supervisor Michael Yaki 415.554.7901 or
Supervisor Leland Yee 415.554.7752 or
Supervisor Alicia Beccril 415.554.6488 or