June 16, 2013

The State of New Mexico issued a citation to Food Not Bombs  on June 1, 2013 for sharing food without a permit while our volunteers were preparing to share our weekly meal at the Taos Plaza. This type of government interference with our Constitutional rights should never happen. Government permission to share food and speak out for our rights should not be required in a free country. The excuse of food safety is bogus. After 33 years of sharing free vegan meals with the hungry, first in Boston and now in over 1,000 cities world wide there has not been one report of illness. No one in our seven years of sharing organic vegan meals at the Plaza has ever complained of illness. Food Safety and sanitation can not really be the reason we were issued a citation.

If asked I am sure New Mexico Environmental Health officials will agree that the complaint they were responding to had nothing to to with food safety. Oddly the inspector did not even inspect the food and had to cross out the word “sell” and write “serve” above it on the citation because just as is the case in every state it is not necessary to have a permit to give away free things to your neighbor.

I believe it is important to defend our right to share food and ideas particularly now as the government concedes making huge cuts in the food stamp program while over $700 billion is being redirected to the military and another $90 billion is used on surveillance and covert disruption of community efforts at social change by groups like Food Not Bombs.

Over 47 million people in the United States officially live in poverty with studies reporting that one in two Americans are struggling to survive. America’s hungriest state New Mexico is also home to the world’s largest stock pile of nuclear weapons and is also producing a new nuclear arsenal at Los Alamos National Laboratories. Cannon Air Base flies their million dollar drones over our state and is considering using Taos County as a practice area for the use of the MV-22 Osprey in future invasions. We also learned that the government is collecting data about every phone call in Taos, that our web traffic is also being collected, stored and analyzed while locally our taxes are being used for a new command center for use by some unknown agencies to command some undefined staff for some unclear reason.

Taos was not the only community  where our volunteers were confronted by local authorities this June. Officials in Seattle, Washington and Gainesville Florida also interfered with the efforts of Food Not Bombs that same week. After the occupy movement was driven from the streets nearly fifty cities including Philadelphia and Houston proposed the banning or limiting the sharing of food in public. They are still struggling to defend their rights.

This is not a “theoretical” concern. After years seeking permission from the city of San Francisco to share food and literature at Golden Gate Park we learned that there was no legal grounds for the state to require us to have a permit. Not one state requires people to obtain a permit to share with one another.  It became clear that the authorities in San Francisco had no intention of issuing a permit because the real  threat was our message that our country would be more secure if it spent its resources on food and not on so many bombs.

The complaint issued to our volunteers in Taos could be an innocent mistake made by the owners of a new food cart in the plaza ( I liked their spinach pie- its very good. ) or it could be part of a larger pattern that we are experiencing across the United States. Either way if we let the state require permits for the sharing of free items and ideas in this atmosphere it wont be long before people will be required to request permission to help people with flat tires or their math homework.  You can visit our weekly meal and join us in seeking to build a free and democratic society where our hopes, desires and basic needs are given priority over the profits of transnational corporations and their government agents. I hope to see you this Saturday from noon to 2:00 PM at the Taos Plaza.

Keith McHenry



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