I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Monday, July 12, 2010

Conscientious Objections to Hunger.

It isn't just Orlando, by the way, where hungry people and their allies are getting harassed and criminalized - that just happened to be the first time the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Food Not Bombs' food-sharing activities are not protected under the First Amendment's free speech clause. FNB has been getting hassled all over the country for hosting free meals in open public places - like parks, where people share

Flagstaff Food Not Bombs being hassled.

food with each other all the time. They even let their kids eat things like hot dogs and hamburgers that were cooked up on grills erected by the city so people can...well, so people can cook and share food with each other. No health inspectors go around checking food temperatures when they see families engaging in that kind of behavior (that's what's really dangerous - all that meat that hasn't been properly refrigerated for hours or cooked thoroughly enough). Cops don't go after picnickers.

So, I guess if you're sharing food with the poor or homeless, it's not considered a picnic. For Food Not Bombs, their activity is seen by some communities as a health hazard, or violates laws that are specially created to ban such mischief from public view. After all, what if the children began to notice all the hungry and homeless people attracted to the food like flies? What if they even wanted to help them, and those radicals serving up free meals in the park started talking about poverty, exploitation, oppression, racism, and other evils of American capitalism? The kids might see banners that say things like "Food Not Bombs", and might question the war in Afghanistan and all our other our misplaced priorities. That's why FNB is always getting hassled - for them, sharing food is about changing the world, not getting to heaven. It's not about charity. To supporters of Food Not Bombs, their nutritious, vegetarian meals are about about peace and justice, human rights, and respect for all life. They aren't just volunteers, they're activists. They put most American charities (and churches) to shame.

Now, even if they weren't of my own philosophical persuasion, I think Food Not Bombs should be allowed to share food just as freely as people at an NRA barbecue or a Fox News company picnic - people who go to those things are usually kind of hungry because they expect to be fed - and even if it's invitation-only, I'd be really surprised if anyone explicitly requires attendees to have the resources to eat elsewhere before they let them eat there. I'm sure no one ever called the cops on them for cooking and eating at the grills and picnic tables dotting the place. In fact, in a lot of cities (just about all of them) the police routinely show up before the families and office parties do to chase away the riff-raff loitering around looking poor and hungry, so the picnickers won't be "uncomfortable" about stuffing their faces and hoarding their food.

Food Not Bombs, in contrast, makes explicit efforts to welcome strangers to their table, especially if it looks like they might not be getting their FDA-recommended dietary needs met. They treat people who look hungry and homeless with respect and dignity. In the process, they make the rest of us squirm about our own privilege. How is that not a political message that should be protected by the First Amendment? The Klu Klux Klan and neo-nazis are protected by the First Amendment! Racists can rally around a platform of hate and distribute all sorts of literature that damages young minds, but Food Not Bombs can't share a meal with people in the park?

What is the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals thinking? Doesn't the name "Food Not Bombs" mean anything? How hard is it to grasp that it's a political message? I hope Orlando FNB takes it to the US Supreme Court. If those folks say they don't get it either, we'll end up with a lot more really good people sitting in jail for doing the right thing - and we'll pay to put them there and feed them, ironically. Food-Not-Bombers all over the country - all over the world, actually - are doing just that: refusing to collaborate with those who perpetrate poverty, hunger, and homelessness on their dinner guests. It's a deeply moral and courageous act to keep on feeding people without making them pay for it when it's considered to be a crime. It's a conscientious objection to the exploitation, greed, and oppression of capitalism. It's an active, honest, open refusal to be a pawn of the ruling class war, or to engage in the violence of poverty. That's kind of revolutionary; no wonder the government is so scared.

Interestingly, just this month the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty published "A Place at the Table: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness." Too bad the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judges didn't read it before ruling; I'm not really sure they care. If hunger or homelessness or poverty are issues you care about, however, download the report and read it. Then support your local Food Not Bombs. If you don't have one around, here's the handbook - figure out how to salvage good food being thrown away and start your own. Your local anarchists will probably be glad to help - this is their kind of thing.

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