DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF THE POOR
Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 10:00am
Department 1 – Superior Court of Santa Cruz County, California
701 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

FOOD NOT BOMBS CO-FOUNDER KEITH McHENRY FACES NEW CRIMINAL CHARGES FOR HIS WORK TO DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF THE POOR

Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry is facing three misdemeanor charges in Santa Cruz Superior Court as a result of his work to defend the rights of the poor.  City officials have been seeking to drive artists and the poor from Pacifica Avenue and other areas downtown. The original case stemmed from an action where McHenry replaced 33 “blue artist boxes” on Pacific Avenue that had been removed by the city. On December 8th, Santa Cruz District Attorney Archie Webber told the court that a warrant had been issued for Mr. McHenry’s arrest in a new case where he has been charged with “offensive words” under California Penal Code 415(3). The other new misdemeanor was ‘Failure to obey a police officer’ who claims he told McHenry to use a cross walk at City Hall at midnight during the Freedom Sleepers protest. Santa Cruz City Council member, Cynthia Chase, City Redevelopment Manager, Julie Hendee and two others came together to observe Keith McHenry and Abbi Samuels’ December 8th court hearing. At the next hearing on the three misdemeanor cases was held on Wednesday, December 16th in Department 1 in Superior Court before Judge Paul Burdick. The District Attorney Webber offered a plea where McHenry would plead guilty to vandalism and have all other charges dropped. Mr. Weber told the court that if McHenry agreed to do this he would do two months in jail which the judge said could be work release. The DA also said the offer would include a years stay away from Pacific Avenue Mall and Assistant City Manager Scott Collins which would make it impossible for McHenry to continue protesting the city’s anti-homeless laws. The offer makes it clear that city officials believe it important to silence McHenry’s effective work in bringing attention to the criminal actions taken by the city against its poor. The next important court hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 10:00 AM.Please show your support by attending the hearings.

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CALL 1-800-884-1136 TO GET INVOLVED

675_900_keith_occupy_world_food_prize_speach

 

The policies promoted by Charles Rivkin and agribusiness during the World Food Prize event at the Iowa State House today ( http://www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/rm/2014/233030.htm ) are the some of the most dangerous threats faced by humanity. The Food sovereignty movement encouraging local control of food, organic agriculture and seed diversity free from genetic engineering is really the only way to successfully feed the estimated 9 billion people predicted to be alive in 2050. The World Food Organization reports that more than half the world’s food is provided by women on small farms or from the sea.

The policies of the World Food Prize threaten global food security. Famine and climate chaos will increase if we do not stop the United States and their friends in transnational corporate boardrooms from implementing these policies
.
The Trans Pacific Partnership is set to legalize the ownership of many important crops by transnational corporations, forcing many small farmers off their land. Secret meetings this November if “successful” could threaten global food security providing the “legal” framework for corporate control of seeds while justifying attacks on seed saving. Past trade agreements have already forced many small farms off the land and have reduced access to food for thousands.

Second point in this article is the idea that patent protection of GMO’s will provide for the 9 billion people expected to live on earth by 2050 even though in reality this is a threat to seed saving and will have huge impact on the ability of small farmers to feed the world. A third point made is the promotion of industrial meat production which is in fact according to the United Nations is the leading cause of climate change and that the resulting extreme climate events are another major threat to global food security.

It is up to us to stop these threats to global food security by both restricting the policies promoted at the World Food Prize and by supporting local organic agriculture.

Keith McHenry
—-

Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry was one of the speakers at the Thursday, Oct. 16 OWFP Rally and Direct Action 6 p.m. State Capitol building, World Food Prize Awards Ceremony

Artist, activist, and author Keith McHenry helped start Food Not Bombs
He lived in National Parks as a child. He has recovered, cooked and shared organic food with the hungry with Food Not Bombs for over 30 years. Keith was arrested “for making a political statement” trying to feed people in San Francisco, spent two years in jail and faced 25 years to life in prison.

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/keitharrest.html

He wrote and illustrated “Hungry for Peace – How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs.”
http://foodnotbombs.net/hungry_for_peace_promotional.html

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/keithbio.html
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/hungry_for_peace_promotional.html
http://fnb-freeskool.org/

OWFP contacts for more info:
Sharon Donovan
515-987-5443Frank Cordaro-
515 282 4781 / c 515 4902490
Occupy the World Food Prize campaign
http://occupytheworldfoodprize.com

Just as soon as I think the authorities may be backing down on their effort to stop people from feeding the hungry in public I am reminded that the state never sleeps even if it shuts down at times. I received an email on October 23, 2013, from the Director of Environmental Health Division of the Mariposa County Health Department. David seems like a nice person even using a funky cool typeface to sign his email.

“Hello Food Not Bombs, My name is David and I am the Environmental Health Director for Mariposa County, CA. I am a member of the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health Food Safety Policy Committee. I am working with other Environmental Health Directors around the State of California to try to make feeding the homeless/hungry easier for groups such yours. I would like to know if you have a lead group in California that would be willing to talk with me about how your operations work and discuss how we can partner to change the law in California to make it easier for organizations such as yours to complete their mission.”

Sounds innocent enough but when considering the context of current events impacting Food Not Bombs it is clear that there will be more to this post than an offer to help. It is also clear that the participation of California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health Food Safety Policy Committee is not going to make it “easier ” for organizations such as ours to complete our mission. We have done fine so far for the past 34 years without their “help.” I believe David is sincere in his desire to reduce hunger and poverty but he may not be aware of the bigger issues. I believe he is unknowingly the messenger of a project designed to protect the interests of those threatened by the possibility of higher taxes and reduced profits. In July of 1988 I was approached by the director of the Haight Ashbury Soup Kitchen. He suggested I ask the Parks Department for a permit. As it turned out he had been used. There was no permit. The authorities had planned to use the requirement of a permit as a way to drive us out of Golden Gate Park and end our organizing efforts. I don’t to disrespect David the messenger but he may have accidentally become part of a larger effort to end the sharing of food in public. I am as concerned about food safety as anyone and have taken many classes in the subject, published flyers, website and included a section on food safely in my books. We have designed Food Not Bombs to be not only safe but the best quality organic vegan meals on the streets.

Receiving this letter days after authorities have interfered with our meals in cities all across America seems suspicious. For example fifteen police told Sacramento Food Not Bombs to stop sharing food at Cesar Chavez Park on Sunday October 6th. The next week the police backed down a bit telling the media they really did not send 15 police to the park to tell the volunteers they could not provide food any more and did not really threaten to take their equipment and food while warning them not to return. That same week as the Sacramento police were video taping the activists as they defied the orders from the week before. One officer also road up on a bike handing a letter to one of the volunteers remarking that it was information on “food safety.” Yes that same “food safety” mentioned in David’s helpful email.

That same week authorities asked Food Not Bombs to stop sharing food in Santa Monica, California.The church group, Crazy Faith Outreach was told to stop sharing food with the hungry in public in Olympia, Washington the week before and I was issued a $500 citation for “selling” food at the Taos Plaza in New Mexico. Authorities also told the Food Not Bombs volunteers in Worcester, Massachusetts to stop. That follows a summer of interference with our meals in states all over the country.

Environmental Health inspector James Jenison issued me a $500 ticket for “selling” food in Taos Plaza without a permit on October 5th even though I was speaking at the Resolve to End Poverty Conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that day. I called inspector Jenison the week after his visit to ask him why he gave me the citation. He told me that he had been called by Steve Zappe who said that Robert Deblassie called him to instruct James to issue me the citation.Steve told James to come out on Saturday, September 28th but he already had plans that weekend so he came to the Plaza on October 5th. One of our dedicated Taos volunteers, David Lewis, was handed the citation and asked if I was still in Baltimore. When David asked if he wanted anything to eat James laughed nervously responding “no thanks, I just ate” and walked off. He didn’t check the temperature of the food or investigate our project in any way.

During my phone conversation that week James said he really had no idea why he was told to issue the citation. He explained that Steve was a “nice guy” worked for the State of New Mexico ands in charge of “food.” James also gave me Robert Deblassie’s and Steve Zappe’s phone numbers. I called Steve on October 10th and left a message. His message did seem friendly but never returned the call. While waiting to hear back from Steve I looked up Robert Deblassie on the web and came across several sites stating that he “Worked in Defense & Space” and listed his history as:

“Quality Engineer at Sandia National Laboratories from August 2011 to August 2013, a Plant Manager at Thomas & Betts and a Buyer/Contract Administrator, Floor Support at General Electric.” Mr. Deblassie had stopped working as a military contractor a little over a month before instructing Mr. Jenison to issue me a ticket. It is also unlikely that Deblassie would have traveled to Taos one Saturday and notice our meal during his few weeks in his new position and became alarmed at seeing our weekly meal. Just why was he instructing James to confront us and why did he search the Food Not Bombs website to find out that I was not even in Taos?

A week after I was ticketed and volunteers in the other cities were to to stop Food Not Bombs activist in Worcester, Massachusetts were told they were not allowed to share food at the “hub” transit center. The problem in the city of Olympia according to the local local officials who told the media that the church had to stop feeding the hungry. The local paper reported that the city “said ‘no more’ to one group who has been feeding the homeless in the same parking lot for the past two years. The city received complaints of traffic and trash problems.” Worcester Food Not Bombs was also told they had to stop because of complaints about traffic problems and trash.

New of efforts to stop the sharing of meals in public has been on the increase. Groups in Boulder, Raleigh, Portland, Seattle and Taos were also told to stop this summer. Successful organizing has slowed efforts to stop those meals. Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, St Petersburg, Tampa, Daytona Beach, Myrtle Beach, and Las Vegas are among the nearly 50 cities in the United States that have passed laws limiting or banning the sharing of free meals in public in the past couple of years. The city of Orlando made 24 arrests in 2011 for violating “The Large Group Feeding Law” and several cities in California have also made arrests for sharing food in public. We learned our lesson in San Francisco after requesting a permit. Our application was used to justify our arrest to an unsuspecting public. After the first 94 arrests the mayor invented a permit process. We spent months buying equipment and agreed to move out of sight behind a tall stand of bushes. A federal judge had to order the Health Department to stop adding rules telling the inspector to provide one last list of requirements and issue the permit once we had completed the list. A few months later as soon as the authorities wanted to stop us they claimed a hungry man had taken a slice of cake from out table before we had posted our permit. The mayor told public that our permit had been revoked and resumed the arrests making over 1,000 arrests in all.

In each case local authorities were provided a template for laws, talking points and opinion letters to be placed in the local paper explaining why it was wrong to provide free meals in public. If history is any indication it will be discovered that a template was provided to someone in power working with California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health Food Safety Policy Committee a fact that David may not be not aware of.

Local food programs receiving government funding would be encouraged to sign onto the letter, participate in meetings, radio and television programs providing authoritative public statements on the dangers of providing food to the hungry in public locations. These dangers included leaving trash behind, making it difficult to drive near the meals, potential violence by those eating, harm to lawns and fear that someone might be made ill eating the food. In recent years there has been the addition of claims that Salvation Army and other government funded programs provide job training and other programs to help people get off the street ignoring the fact that they have little or no success. Food Not Bombs provides one of the most important things most people need for overcoming poverty, something that most other programs never provide, dignity and respect. Food Not Bombs encouraged those relying on our food to participate as an equal in our meetings and operation.

When I received the October 23rd email I stopped every thing and wrote a note to the David reminding him that no one has ever reported having been made ill eating with Food Not Bombs and outlined why I felt his organizations “help” was not necessary. My response best describes how I feel and I hope will help other Food Not Bombs volunteers communicate with the authorities if they are approached by someone wishing us well like David.

My letter goes as follows.

” Hi Dave,”

“Thanks for writing. As you may know no one has ever reported having been made ill eating with Food Not Bombs. We have have a policy of not applying for permits or asking permission for governments to provide food and information in public. ”

“First no one should need to ask permission to help their neighbors period. Gifts should never be a regulated activity. ”

“Second it is clear that the intention of food safe laws is to protect people from food providers that might ignore food safety standards and cutting corners to increase their profits. Any group that has no paid staff and makes no money from sharing with their community should not be required to ask permission. ”

“Food Not Bombs is always protected free speech under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

“Finally after we requested a permit in San Francisco in July 1988 we discovered the intention of the permit process was to withhold the permit and provide a justification for shutting down our program not because anyone had ever been made ill eating with Food Not Bombs but because military contractors and other corporate leaders were concerned the public would be motivated on visiting us to pressure federal and local officials to have our taxes be used for education, healthcare and other social services reducing their profits. Again as you may know, not one person has ever reported having been made ill from eating with Food Not Bombs ever in any city at any time during our 34 year history. We provide information on the proper ways to safely share food, our food in always vegan or vegetarian and shared within two hours of being prepared. ”

“We have designed our program so anyone can reproduce it with out requiring any funding and still safely provide hundreds of very healthy meals to the hungry. Our food is not only vegan but we focus on organic whole foods and do not limit the quantity of food or have any restrictions as to who can enjoy our healthy meals. A permit process even if suggested by well intended public officials would lead down a path that would become costly and limit the number of people we can support. ”

“Soup kitchens that have paid staff and directors and share meat and dairy may be subject to state food safety laws because they could save money cutting corners and they are not in general seeking to change society and would not face repression, violence and prison because of their efforts to solve the crisis of hunger seeking to returning the country to a time before 50 cents of every tax dollar was directed to the military budget and we had almost no homeless Americans.”

“If the State of California and the Federal Government is interested in ending hunger they can start by diverting the billions wasted on the military and use it to fund universal healthcare, low cost higher education, carbon free energy and the many other solutions groups like ours have been working towards over the past three decades. ”

“We are aware of a nationally coordinated effort to drive Food Not Bombs and other food programs out of public space in preparation of a possible economic collapse. Our volunteers have been threatened in states all over the country in the past few months so it is clear who ever suggested your organization seek conversation with Food Not Bombs and has suggested this subject as one for your organization to address was covertly wishing to provide publicly acceptable justification for ultimately driving us out of sight. This may not be a fact you are aware of. ”

“I would be the best person to help you. I am not aware of any Food Not Bombs volunteers in California that would know as much about this subject and have the long view that I have but I can ask. I have taken many food safety courses, have food handlers permits in a number of states and I have written several books on this subject that have been translated into many languages. I would be happy to attend if you can pay for my transportation. ”

“The best state wide law addressing your concern is Connecticut General Statute 19A-36. ”

“Connecticut General Statute 19A-36 was changed on October 3, 2009”

“According to Peter Goselin, one of the lawyers for Food Not Bombs, “the amended state statute not only protects free distribution of food to people who need it in Connecticut, but should be viewed as a model for other states to follow so that faith-based and civic organizations can do what is needed. This is particularly important given news released today that one in six Americans now live in poverty.”

“I would also point out we provide meals in over 1,000 cities half of which are not located in the United States and the only countries that have ever suggested we request a permit or has even suggested we stop are the United States and Belarus. Not one other country on earth and we provided meals in every corner of the world has asked us for a permit. At the same time no one has ever reported having been made ill in any of our 1,000 locations so it appears the need for any such policy is unnecessary yet I am happy to speak with your organization to explain how we have safely provided meals, at no cost to the government, to so many tens of thousands of people for so many decades if you believe this would be helpful.”

“Thanks for your consideration ”
“Keith McHenry”
“co-founder of the Food Not Bombs Movement”

David responded right away telling me that he has no hidden agenda which is really very possible. He would not be the first one to be inspired by a conversation about helping the hungry or after visiting a soup kitchen decided to innocently seek a way to use their position to make a difference. Since we were in the local news David may have been moved to help. I applaud David for his compassion. But things are not always as they appear. I am sure the other inspectors in the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health Food Safety Policy Committee are nice and would be horrified if someone had been made ill eating at a soup kitchen. I know I sure would be more than distressed if it were to happen from a Food Not Bombs meal and that again is why we make our program simple and reduce any chance of illness by design while also making it possible for anyone to provide as many as possible with healthy meals without having to pay huge amounts of money. This is way we are sharing meals and ideas in so many places.

Food Safety and false claims of concern for the poor have been used for years to drive poverty out of sight with the goal of reducing pressure to use public funds on education, healthcare and other social services. Most people believe policies to criminalize the poor and restrict the sharing of food are inspired by local business and political leaders seeking to address some real community concern but this not the case. This is a nationally coordinated program that started in the mid 1980s and continues to this day. David’s email offering to “make feeding the homeless/hungry easier for groups” such as ours is a new twist on a well established nationwide campaign to hide poverty. The current budget fight in Washington D.C. will come down to “guns or butter” and if groups like Food Not Bombs fail at building popular support guns will win out again and the legions of hungry will increase. No amount of Food Safety Permits will help.

I owned and manage a graphic design company with clients like the Boston Re Sox, Boston Celtics, The New England Patriots, Filene’s Basement, John Dellaria Salons, many local health professionals and retail stores. In 1985 the president of my local business association asked me to take a photo of a local African American person and use it in a poster that said “Wanted out of Kenmore Square.” I suggested I place a red circle with a line through it in front of his photo. I suggested this would be a very bad idea since so many people loved Mr. Butch, nicked named the “Mayor of Kenmore Square” by the many Red Sox fans that passed by him on the way to Fenway Park.

The American League Championships were coming to Fenway Park and rumors of the team making the World Series were common and turned out to be true. I offered to provide meals during the Red Sox games at one of the empty warehouses behind the outfield wall on Lansdowne Street. That same week the captain of the local police percent spoke at our monthly business association meeting explaining about the need to remove the homeless, punks. bums and other “scum” from Kenmore Square because “studies” showed people were not shopping in the local business because they felt guilty or uncomfortable seeing people asking for money and eating out of the garbage cans. The captain explained that the U.S. Justice Department had provided the research on “quality of life” crimes and with our help we could drive the homeless out of the area and increase sales.

They never could drive Mr. Butch from Fenway and when he died in a scooter accident Red Sox fans held candle light memorials in town squares all over New England. I don’t remember the name of our business association president.

This was my first introduction to what I discovered is a national effort by federal, state and local officials to address poverty and homelessness with a systematic program of confiscation, intimidation, arrest, anti-homeless laws and architecture.

Harvard Professor ‪James Q. Wilson‬ introduced the “Broken Windows Theory” in an article published in 1982. This theory was used to provide “scientific” justification for this system directed against the poor and homeless called “Quality of Life crimes.” Wilson works for the RAND corporation and many other organizations developing theories to criminalize the poor at a time when the Reagan administration was making cuts in domestic spending redirecting federal tax dollars towards the military, police, prisons and programs to support corporate interests. By the time I was approached to design the poster to encourage the people of Kenmore Square to take action against the homeless the policies of Reagan were starting to cause an increase in poverty. Instead of introducing programs to make sure people had housing, education, healthcare and jobs federal resources were being used to criminalize the victims of the harsh neo-liberal economic policies of “Reaganomics.”

In 1994 Clinton implemented the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services or C.O.P.S. providing stronger national coordination for this campaign against the homeless and poor. I had direct experience as a business person in the Sunset District of the San Francisco Police supporting the formation and resurrection of business associations. The police would send a district captain to the association’s monthly meeting where they would use “The Broken Windows Theory” to justify the need to lobby city officials for “Quality of Life” laws against sleeping outside, sitting on the sidewalks in commercial districts and many other regulations directed at the poorest people in the community. They also promoted programs like “Give a Hand Up not a Hand Out” claiming that giving change to people pan handling was financing drug and alcohol abuse so people should donate to United Way, local food programs and shelters. The police provided templates for “Give A Hand Up not a Hand Out” posters and white papers on related laws against standing near parking meters, automatic teller machines, and payment booths at parking garages.

To enforce these policies and laws the police also organize a system of neighborhood watch groups which would call the police to remove poor and homeless people, remove political flyers from store windows, bulletin boards and light poles. They also report the activities of community groups like Food Not Bombs to the local police. I was assaulted by neighborhood watch members a number of times in San Francisco and learned a great deal about this program from internal police memos I recovered through discover in the resulting criminal cases inspired by these attacks.

The watch groups also work with business associations, churches and homeless services to support anti-homeless rumors and laws. While the public statements to drive the homeless out of sight and calls for the support of more police enforcement appears to be genuine it is not. The opinion articles, letters to the editor, calls to radio programs and public comments at hearings and meetings before the Board of Supervisors are crafted by think tanks and introduced in a systematic way from the C.O.P.S. program through local police departments to community groups to provide the appearance of grassroots support for nationally designed efforts.

You may be familiar with local “ambassadors programs” where volunteers or even paid people walk along commercial districts making sure all is well. This often means telling the homeless, street performers and other unwanted people to move along. This is one of the many anti-homeless projects implemented through the C.O.P.S. program.

Anti- homeless architecture is also provided through this system. A catalog is distributed to business groups offering special benches with arm rests and spikes for walls. The amount of building features provided to desecrate people from sitting around is amazing and costly.

There are campaigns parallel to the C.O.P.S. program that provide additional coordination. A member of The International Association of Chiefs of Police told Food Not Bombs that they have a workshop at their convention called “What To Do If A Food Not Bombs Group Starts In Your Community.” There are also national and statewide conferences of city attorneys where they share and coordinate strategies, laws and legal theories. The National Conference of Mayors has its own policy workshops to help implement programs against the homeless and poor and their supporters. National and state conferences of city park administrators also offer help in driving the hungry and their supporters from public space.

The National Environmental Health Association has a conference. You can find that our friendly email correspondent’s California organization is affiliated with The National Environmental Health Association who among helping make sure groups like Food Not Bombs are not able to build opposition to the economic policies that have forced so many to rely on food programs also has a program that addresses the issue of terrorism. There website notes:

“Environmental health professionals find themselves facing new responsibilities. While their mission has always been to preserve and improve environmental factors for the achievement of optimum health, safety, and well being of the public, the challenges within that mission have expanded to include security and counter-terrorism.”

“Focus groups, marketing surveys, and needs assessments show that the environmental health workforce is not well prepared to respond to a terrorist attack or other unforeseen disaster. The members of the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) realize they have a key role to insure adequate response and strongly desire training in this area. To this end, NEHA is coordinating with stakeholders most closely allied with environmental health to develop emergency preparedness curricula, training opportunities, and resources for environmental health practitioners across the country. ”

Linked to this page on their national website are a number of organizations including “FEMA Ready Campaign” and 9/11 Lessons Learned.”

Since Food Not Bombs has been listed as “one of America’s most hardcore terrorist groups” by the military, F.B. I. U.S. State department and other agencies we may be included in their workshop on domestic terrorist threats.

Another area of coordination and citizen involvement in the security state is the Department of Homeland Security’ Citizen Corps with Citizen Corps Councils, Community Emergency Response Teams, Medical Reserve Corps, Fire Corps and Neighborhood Watch programs. I was involved with Katrina and Sandy relief and at no time did I ever meet anyone from any of these programs yet I did have meet them while posting flyers or tabling for peace events where I would be arrested.

Our taxes are not limited to funding this more benign network but also supports surveillance by the F.B.I. Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, C.I.A. N.S.A. and many private security companies all with the goal of silencing opposition to an economic system that benefits the 1%. We learn more every day from documents provided by Edward Snowden and the other whistle blowers coming forward after his brave action. I could write a book and am hoping to do so about the many interconnections of the intelligence industry and their campaign to disrupt movements like Food Not Bombs.

Even with this massive infrastructure of repression groups like Food Not Bombs are succeeding. David’s letter is a good sign. Some one is worried that as the U.S. State Department noted in an April 2009 lecture that our “vegan meals are more dangerous than Al-Qaeda” because we are influencing the public to demand that our taxes go to ending hunger and poverty instead of funding the world’s largest military.

The increase in efforts to hide hunger is an indication that the authorities are realizing that more American’s understand that they can not depend on corporate and political leaders to provide a safe and secure community. If you live in David’s jurisdiction it is clear that his coworkers have missed some of the largest food safety issues. Millions of cattle crammed into filthy stockyards. Hundreds of acres of crops fed poisonous chemical fertilizers and sprayed with toxic pesticides. Oil wells spewing smoke across acres of toxic citrus groves and nutrition free produce.

How many companies in California are growing poisonous Genetically Engineered Crops which are not only manufactured into gas station food but fed to millions of confined poultry and cattle? I also recall having seen McDonald’s, KFC, Burger Kings and many hundreds of other fast food establishments selling toxic meals at nearly every intersection in the state. Shouldn’t they be stopped if food safety is of concern? I am sure David would agree but sadly according the Environmental Health officials in San Francisco McDonald’s provides the funding and information on food safety to schools certifying the state’s inspectors making it too expensive for McDonald’s competition to meet their food safety requirements.

David and the other members of the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health Food Safety Policy Committee have more than enough food safety issue to address without bothering people who have been sharing organic vegan meals with the hungry for the past 30 years. If they want to help end hunger join us in our effort to change society and remind their membership that offering gifts of compassion is an unregulated activity that should be encouraged. If we start requiring permits to help community with free meals where will it stop? Permits to help people change a flat or assist older Americans to cross the street. There are some things the government has no business interfering with. Feeding the hungry is one of them particularly when the government is reducing it’s own efforts to end hunger and poverty.

Thanks so much for your consideration.

Keith McHenry
co-founder of the Food Not Bombs Movement
P.O. Box 424
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA
575-770-3377
 
EFFORTS TO STOP FOOD NOT BOMBS CONTINUE
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/fnb_resists.html

HUNGRY FOR PEACE
How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs
http://foodnotbombs.net/hungry_for_peace_promotional.html

THE WORLD SERIES OF HUNGER The nationwide campaign to hide hunger goes into extra innings.
http://blog.foodnotbombs.net/the-world-series-of-hunger-the-nationwide-campaign-to-hide-hunger-goes-into-extra-innings/

THE MAGIC OF THINKING

October 15, 2013

Too big to fail America may not really be too big to fail after all. The political crisis over Obama Care and a potential default on U.S. debt highlights the both the magical thinking of many Americans who in their fear of becoming even more desperately poor have accepted Fox TV, The Koch brothers and their Tea Party as reality.

Ted Cruz helped get the current crisis off with over 20 hours of enlightened statements on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Our texas Senator is a huge believer in magical thinking. Things like his “fact” that the earth is really on 8,000 years old. Scientist Richard Dawkins made an interesting point on CBC Radio this week comparing the belief that the earth is 8,000 years old when science estimates it is around 4.6 billion years old is the same thing as saying the continent of North America is eight yards long from the Atlantic to the Pacific. My grandfather met my father’s mother when he was teaching geology at Estes Park Colorado. Not long after he took a job as a Park Naturalist at the Grand Canyon helping create Yaki Point Look out to provide the public with the stunning example of our earth’s age.

‪Chris Hedges‬ noted that “U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz—whose father is Rafael Cruz, a rabid right-wing Christian preacher and the director of the Purifying Fire International ministry—and legions of the senator’s wealthy supporters, some of whom orchestrated the shutdown, are rooted in a radical Christian ideology known as Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism.” The magical thinkers at the core of this shut down and debt crisis hope to bring an end to the Federal Government we have had and bring a Christian version government similar to a Taliban type of Sharia Law.

The Democrats have their own version of magical thinking. The most dire at this point is equating Universal Access to Heath Insurance with Universal Access to healthcare making the entire stalemate in Washington DC all the more insane. Anyone who believes that capitalism is wonderful and that corporations are almost as sacred as Jesus should love any law that makes every American add to the profits of the medical industry. Public financing of corporate profits with the transfer of billions of dollars to America’s 1% should be the greatest gift to capitalism ever. That is after the largest gift of all, military spending, a gift that knows no boundaries where waste and fraud have no limits. Need more profits? Invade Iraq and fly in pallets of hundred dollar bills or better yet ask the poor to buy billions of dollars in gas to drive tanks, jets, and hummers all over the Middle East to “protect” our access to…yes more gas.

Fifty cents of every dollar we pay in income taxes is spent on the military. Sadly this is fact and not magical thinking. It is also estimated that half the oil used by Americas is used by the military to protect the interests of people like Charles and David Koch and their oil industry friends. Welfare or “entitlements” for America’s 1% in the guise of National Security is magical thinking the Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

If we think America may no longer be “too big to fail” what about our Earth? Magical thinking is burning millions of tons of fossil fuels in the effort to “defend” our country’s access to fossil fuels while rushing to increase the climate crisis. But wait oil does not come from fossils and climate change is a liberal myth.

Martin Wolf’s article ” America flirts with self-destruction” starts with “Is the US a functioning democracy?” He goes on to say “Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch argue that hitting the ceiling would require the US to balance its budget at once, cutting spending by about 20 per cent, or 4 per cent of GDP. That would push the US into another recession–even if there were no default. The consequences of an actual default, particularly one that lasted for some time, are beyond prediction….”

Yes Beyond prediction. Martin Wolf is the chief economics commentator at The Financial Times and spoke on the NPR program “On Point” with host Tom Ashbrook on October 10th with economists Alan Auerbach and Austan Goolsbee in a segment called “Digging Deep Into Federal Default Scenarios” The website promise that the program would be scary. “Barreling towards default. We’ll go deep on scenarios for the economy.  They’re scary—and the politics. Scary too” and they were right. As the conversation continued often with statements about those taking off the cliff as lunatics, insane and crazy words you don’t hear so often in economic discussions it became increasingly clear that I needed to buy as many hundred of dollars in dry goods like rice, beans, flour and oats as I can as fast as I can because millions of additional bellies are about to be empty for days at a time. Calls are already coming in to our Hunger Hotline with some reporting that they have not eaten in days. Some going with food for over a week.

This could be one reason that the authorities increased their efforts to shut down the sharing of food in public. Last week advocates for the poor were told to stop sharing meals with the hungry in Sacramento and Santa Monica, California, Taos, New Mexico, and Olympia, Washington.

Groups were confronted and threatened with arrest in Boulder, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington and other cities across the United States this summer. In all over 50 cities in the United States have passed laws banning or limiting the sharing of meals with the hungry in the past two years with enforcement on the increase this fall.

On Sunday, October 6th Sacramento Food Not Bombs was kicked out of the Cesar Chavez Park by the Sacramento police. Volunteers were greeted by about 15 officers when they arrived at the park when they normally do in time to start sharing the meal they created by 1:30pm. They were told that our stuff would be confiscated and we would get a summons due to an ordinance that has yet to even be passed that would prevent any group from handing out free hot meal in the park.
Even though I was speaking at the Resolve to End Poverty Conference in Chapel Hill North Carolina New Mexico Environmental Health official James Jenison stopped by our meal in the TaosTaos Plaza to issue me a $500 citation for selling food without a permit. I called James on October 10th. He told me that he had been called by Steve Zappe who was instructed by Robert Deblassie to tell James that he needed to stop by our meal in Taos to issue me a citation. Our volunteer in Taos was handed the citation As James gave our volunteer he asked if I was still in Baltimore. When I spoke with James he really had no idea why he was told to issue me a citation. He said Steve was in charge of “food” and “a nice guy.” and gave me both Robert and Steve’s phone number. I called Steve and left a message. His message did indeed sound friendly.
I thought I should look into the origins of my having been issued a citation for “selling food without a permit” and searched for Steve and Robert on the web. Sure enough Steve was the director of food safety for the State of New Mexico. It was not so easy to find out Robert’s position with the state government but there were many references to his employment with military contractors several sites saying “Worked in Defense & Space” with details that claimed he worked at Sandia National Laboratories up to August 2013. He also worked at Thomas & Betts and General Electric.

Past efforts to drive Food Not Bombs out of sight were originated from concerns that the public would see our volunteers providing vegan meals to large numbers of hungry people motivating the public to pressure the government to divert funding from the military to social programs, healthcare and education. U.S. State Department officials compared us to al-Quida in a lecture aired on C-Span in April 2009 concluding Food Not Bombs was more dangerous because we were friendly and were building momentum towards reducing military spending. Local officials worry that they too will be pressure to divert funding from projects desired by their campaign supporters in the business community to programs to help the poor.

Campaigns to hide hunger and poverty are nationally coordinated even though the public is given the impression that local officials and business leaders were inspired by local conditions to introduce laws against the sharing of food in public, restrictions on begging, sitting in commercial areas or sleeping outside.

I was approached by the president of the Kenmore Square Business Association in Boston and asked to take a photo of a local African American man to use in a poster I would design saying “Wanted out of Kenmore Square.” hey suggested I put a Red circle with a line through it over his picture. The idea came from meetings the association was having with the local Captan of the Boston Police Department who explained that the reason our retail shops were not doing as well as those on Newbury Street was the presence of homeless people.

This was my introduction into what I soon learned was a nationwide campaign promoted by the federal government. It became the Community Oriented Policing Services program and used the “Broken Window Study ” and scientific proof that local business needed to support “quality of life” campaigns. Justice Department officials funded and coordinated templates that included posters, quality of life laws, and anti-homeless architecture like benches difficult to sleep on and spikes for walls to keep people from sitting. Local police were encouraged to speak at business association meetings to explain that crime by the homeless was on the increase and studies showed that your store would sell more but people wont make purchases if they see homeless people and may not even visit your neighborhood if they know they may see a homeless person.

In the early 1990’s the chief of the Missoula Montana Police Department told us that The International Chief of Police Association’s yearly conference started to have an annual workshop called “What to do if a Food Not Bombs group starts in your city.” City attorney conferences also have discussions on the passing of laws to ban or limit the sharing of food in public, laws restricting pan handling, outside sleeping and other “quality of life crimes.” If you travel across America you may notice the greenish poster “give a hand up not a hand out” poster in store windows. Your business association might have down load the template off the Justice Department C.O.P.S. website.

While we are rushing towards global economic failure American tax payers are not only paying for the largest military on earth, housing more of ourselves in prison than any other country we address the issue of poverty and hungry by funding a nationally coordinated campaign to criminalize the victims of corporate domination. If that isn’t already magical thinking going wild America’s “best” Christians are demanding the implementation of policies designed to cause more suffering.

Just before the government shut down the U.S. Congress approved a three-year nutrition bill (H.R. 3102), with a partisan 217-210 vote, that aims to cut about $40 billion over 10 years for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and provide various reforms to the program. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said the bill includes “reasonable changes” to address the “growing and growing and growing” amount of SNAP recipients. “There are still jobs available in America,” Sessions said. “They may not be ones you want to stay in your whole life.” Democratic congress people said that 4 million low-income people, including 170,000 veterans would be cut from the food stamp program because of the vote.

The government shut down will stop payments to over 9 million low-income women and children who qualify for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children also known as WIC. Feeding hungry children is not considered essential yet 350,000 furloughed civilian employees of the Pentagon returned to work on Monday.

Tennessee Congressman Stephen Fincher lobbied fellow Congress people to make huge cuts in the Food Stamp Program. He started his work with the gospel when he was only nine years old joining the The Fincher Family singing ministry. Fincher, who owns a farm in western Tennessee has received over $3.5 million in agricultural subsidies from the federal government.

Another wealthy American Shaun McCutcheon uses magical thinking to claim his “right to free speech’ has been deed because he can’t buy “enough” political power. He took his case to the Supreme Court. It could be very interesting to see where America goes once the Supreme Court rules that the 1% percent is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to “hire’ any politician they wish to pass any law they need to provide access to as much money as they desire. We think the 1% is rich and powerful now. We haven’t seen anything yet.

While the courts have claimed that money is protected free speech they have also ruled that sharing free food and literature under the banner Food Not Bombs is not protected by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution claiming that “time place and manor” restrictions apply. It might be legal to share food with the hungry in public and it might be legal to hold a banner and pass out flyers but “obviously” you can’t do both at the same time and location because that would be “too powerful of speech.” This is the magical thinking born from meetings of city attorneys in California in the early 1990’s and shared with city officials all across the United States.

MSNBC aired this on the Rachel Maddow Show report that in September 2010, a few weeks before the midterm elections, Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia spoke at the Faith and Freedom Conference telling the audience that the Republican Party was going to need their support when they move to shut down the government. They played tape of Westmoreland saying

“He can tell you what happened. the government shut down. [ applause ] the American people — that’s what I wanted to hear! I wanted to hear a good clap for that. because here’s what’s going to happen. If we hold the line , if we get those courageous men and women to be part of our majority , if we say, look, we’re in partnership with the American people , we’re listening to the American people , this is what we’re going to do. if the government shuts down, we want you with us. We want you with us. We’ve got to have you. We’ve got to have you there because later on, you all will call us and say, look, i didn’t get my check. Daddy can’t go to the VA. you know, the National Parks are closed. We need to make sure that you’re going to be with us.”

Some kind of deal could be agreed to to save America and the world from fiscal cliff but for millions the crisis will continue every day regardless. Magical thinking has brought us to a critical point. Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein was interviewed about this partial government shutdown and debt crisis on RT and provided what will be considered the best outcome by the main stream media. Obama and the Republicans will advert the fall off the fiscal cliff raising the debt ceiling saving America and the world fro catastrophic collapse. In the process Republicans will “win” concessions like cuts in social security, medicare and other programs. Not one penny will be diverted from the Pentagon, Homeland Security or agencies like the NSA.

We may look back and have wished Obama made a “Grand Bargain and cut social security, medicare and made the Affordable Care Act even less affordable after we struggle to survive the economic chaos following a refusal to increase the debt.

At the same time Congress and the White House are in turmoil IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard was across town speaking at the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank. “If Congress doesn’t increase the nation’s borrowing authority this month. It would probably lead to a lot of financial turmoil.”
Food Not Bombs groups may be in for more than arrests and beatings. Millions may be looking to us for food and guidance.

Please support Sacramento Food Not Bombs. We will be risking arrest on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Cesar Chavez Park at 1:30 PM – For more details you can call Sacramento Food Not Bombs volunteer Davida at 916-451-6503
Keith McHenry
co-founder of the Food Not Bombs Movement
P.O. Box 424
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA
575-770-3377

BLACK INK
The official site for Hofstra University’s Association of Black Journalists’ newsletter
http://habjblackink.com/2013/10/10/food-not-bombs-volunteers-face-arrest-on-sunday/

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/YOU_DONT_NEED_PERMISSION_TO_END_HUNGER.pdf

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/fnb_resists.html

Advocates for the poor were told to stop sharing meals with the hungry in a Sacramento and Santa Monica, California; Taos, New Mexico; and Olympia, Washington on the weekend of October 5th and 6th.

http://blog.foodnotbombs.net/effort-to-hide-the-hungry-continues-across-the-united-states/

Nearly every week some one contacts me about news that local authorities are threatening to stop the sharing of food in public. This was a particularly busy time for such news. At the same time hunger is on the increase and Congress is voting to cut 39 billion dollars in food stamps. There has never been a more important time to make the struggle for food justice visible.
Some officials claim they are just enforcing food safety laws but there has not been one complaint of anyone being made ill eating with Food Not Bombs. The food is vegan and shared within three hours. Not only that the food is often organic consisting of whole grains, fresh produce and high end baked goods often the best quality meals people depending on food programs ever get. In our 33 year history sharing in over 1,000 cities without one case of reported illness related to our meals it is clear food safety is not an issue. The excuse of needing permission is also false. Every state in the U.S. recognizes that food sanitation permits are only required for people and groups that would profit from cutting corners by ignoring food safety standards.  Our meals are free and a gift to anyone without restriction. Not one of us is paid and has any reason to  ignore food safety standards. Sharing food and ideas is an unregulated activity protected activity. We are seeking to change society by sharing vegan meals, free literature under the banner Food Not Bombs. The attempt to require permits is based on the goal of the authorities to deny us a permit and provide a “Legitimate” excuse for stopping the sharing of food in public.
Why would officials want to drive our meals out of sight? For one they do not want pressure to divert tax money on solutions for hunger and poverty from projects wanted by the wealthiest in their communities. On a national level military contractors, bankers and other corporate leaders are concerned the public will see the hungry gathered in the streets and it will highlight the fact that we have plenty of tax dollars to provide huge profits for the 1 percent yet little is clearly being done to provide for most of those paying the taxes. 
 
The eight of us that started Food Not Bombs were profoundly influenced by our participation in the October 6, 1979 Occupation Attempt of Seabrook Nuclear  Power Station in New Hampshire. Three decades later it is clear those of us who’s lives were changed by the violent military response to our effort to stop the dangers of nuclear power were tragically correct in our concern. The October 6, 2013 edition of the Washington Post reported that “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that Japan is open to receiving overseas help to contain widening radioactive water leaks at the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima, with leaks and mishaps reported almost daily.“We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem,” Abe said in his English speech to open the conference on energy and environment. “My country needs your knowledge and expertise.”  

The dangers of nuclear power have a more direct connection to hunger than we realized in 1979 as teargas rained down on us from helicopters and the National Guard smashed us across our heads with five foot long clubs. Hundreds of millions of people depend on seafood to survive. Fish that  are now highly radioactive and may not survive. On October 4, 2013 at least 430 liters of water 6,700 times more radioactive than the legal limit spilled into the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear station and the crisis is only increasing. We have no idea what impact this is having on sea and how many will go hungry as their food supply is poisoned.
 
This October 6th I have had the honor to participate in the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill organized by students from around the United States. Their knowledge and dedication is inspiring. The conference opened with a presentation called “The Faces of Homelessness”  where three formally homeless people spoke about their lives and the hunger they faced living on the streets.  We watched the film “A Place at the Table” and shared conversations about possible solutions to hunger.  Brett Weisel the Director of Advocacy for Feeding America spoke just after I had received an email about the city of Olympia, Washington seeking to stop the sharing of meals by the charity Crazy Faith Outreach. The article reported that “two weeks ago the outreach hit a snag when several nearby business owners, including Pam Tuttle, complained to the city. ‘We end up with a lot of traffic,’ Tuttle said. ‘We have had problems with garbage.’ City Manager Steve Hall said after he received those complaints, Olympia police investigated and found several safety violations, including dozens of people walking into traffic and blocking cars.” 

Just as the conference was about to start I get a call from one of the Santa Monica Food Not Bombs organizers. He told me that a paster Ron Hooks of West Coast Care had been trying to get the group to stop sharing their vegan meals on the downtown promenade. According to several newspaper articles Ron describes West Coast Care as a nonprofit working with the Santa Monica Police Department’s Joint Homeless Outreach Program. Santa Monica Food Not Bombs shares every Thursday evening at the Third Street Promenade long after the shops are closed. 

An article in  the July 11, 2103 edition of the Boulder Weekly reported that “Groups that feed the homeless in downtown Boulder on Saturdays say the city is trying to run them out of the area in yet another attempt to get rid of those the city considers undesirable.”

”But city officials insist that they support the feeding operations, and that they are just trying to alleviate congestion in the area and reduce criminal activity.”

Back in North Carolina the  Raleigh  police told groups that they would be arrested if they continued to share meals in public. After news of the threat was posted all over the web and it was clear that there was opposition to the closing of the meals city officials stop the police. In mid August 2013  news was posted on a number of activist website. ” This story is exploding on social media since it was posted by Love Wins, a ministry in Raleigh. Human Beans Together is another group suddenly barred by the Raleigh police from giving out food to the homeless in Moore Square on the weekends, when soup kitchens don’t operate.”

”Folks are heading to Moore Square today at 4, when Food Not Bombs is intending to do its regular food distribution — or try, anyway.”

On August 25th it was reported that  “Food Not Bombs did bring food and they were allowed to distribute it. The Raleigh police stood down after Mayor Nancy McFarlane and numerous Council members intervened today with Police Chief Deck-Brown and Acting City Manager Perry James.”  The article notes that “A permit to use Moore Square is apparently $800 a day.”

As I was watching the Oxfam staff prepare for that evening’s Hunger Banquet I get a text from the Food Not Bombs volunteers in Taos. The State of New Mexico Environmental Health official stopped by our weekly meal and asked if I was still in Baltimore as he handed one of our volunteers David Lewis a $500 citation issued to me for selling food at the Taos Plaza on October 5th without a permit. Another volunteer David Cortez filmed the exchange and posted it to my Facebook minutes after it happened. The same official issued me another $500 citation on June 1, 2013 crossing out the words selling writing in sharing. At the time rumor had it that a new food vendor from out of town had filed a complaint but they have moved on so it is not clear why the officials working for America’s hungriest state would issue a citation to someone who was busy participating in a hunger and poverty conference in North Carolina. 

When I visited the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program website it said “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.” 

Just before the government shut down the U.S. Congress approved a three-year nutrition bill (H.R. 3102), with a partisan 217-210 vote, that aims to cut about $40 billion over 10 years for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and provide various reforms to the program. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said the bill includes “reasonable changes” to address the “growing and growing and growing” amount of SNAP recipients. “There are still jobs available in America,” Sessions said. “They may not be ones you want to stay in your whole life.” Democratic congress people said that 4 million low-income people, including 170,000 veterans would be cut from the food stamp program because of the vote. 

The government shit down will stop payments to over 9 million low-income women and children who qualify for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children also known as WIC. Feeding hungry children is not considered essential yet 350,000 furloughed civilian employees of the Pentagon will return to work on Monday. 

On Monday October 7th I received an email from Sacramento Food Not Bombs volunteer Petey. “Well, yesterday Sacramento Food not Bombs was kicked out of the Cesar Chavez Park by the Sacramento police. We were greeted by about 15 officers when we arrived at the park  when we normally do in time to start sharing the meal we created by 1:30pm. We were told that our stuff would be confiscated and we would get a summons due to an ordinance that has yet to even be passed that would prevent any group from handing out free hot meal in the park.” 

The federal government and corporate leaders understand the power of groups like Food Not Bombs and work hard to reduce our influence. Officials arrested nine volunteers sharing food and information at the entrance to Golden Gate Park on August 15, 1988. The police told the media that they did not mind that we were feeding the hungry. They objected to our message stating that we “were making a political statement and that is not allowed.” They told the media that the city would provide buses to take the hungry out of sight to a military facility out by the beach and we could feed people there but we could not have banners and literature and share food where the public could see us. 


I was invited to be the keynote speaker at “The Great Food Fight” in North Hampton England. It turned out that the lest expensive way to fly to Europe was through Reykjavik, Iceland so I  arranged to visit the local Food Not Bombs group. We prepared the meal at a volunteers home took it to the main intersection downtown and retrieved several signs from a pub next to the serving location. One sign had the complete text of a flyer explaining about Food Not Bombs written with a marker in English on one side and in Icelandic on the other. They also provided a suit case full of literature. 

People gathered to eat and soon were busy debating the ideas expressed on the signs and flyers. Before long the people were telling me about how a people started a lively debate about reform of the government or a fundamental change of society. The discussion was sparked by the statements on the signs and information on the flyers. They said the conversation continued at the next weeks meal and it was agreed that they should march on the parliament building and off they went.  Word spread and many more people came to the next Food Not Bombs meal. Lunch ended in a second march. When I arrived they had just taken down the government. Several people had been arrested after removing the flag of Iceland and replacing it with a flag of the county’s discount chain Bónus with its logo of a pink piggy bank.  Protesters march to the jail demanding the release of the prisoners. 

The protests grew so large that prime minister Geir Haarde resigned in 2009. He was  prosecuted in a special trial for bringing the country to ruin. “A court ruled that he failed to hold cabinet meetings focused on the spiraling crisis ahead of the North Atlantic island’s financial implosion, which marked one of the seminal moments of the global panic caused by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.” but he was spared any time in prison even though he could have been sentenced to two year. The Icelandic people started to rewrite their constitution and refused to bail out the banks. The banner and literature at our meals can mean trouble for those in power and the state knows this.

The message from nearly every speaker at the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference came to the same conclusion. We have abundant resources. We just don’t have access to food, housing and healthcare because of policies that benefit the 1 percent and have turned what should be a basic human right into a commodity. The biggest change in perspective I witnessed was with Feed America when Brett Weisel stated that there focus was on “shortening the line for food”  and working to for a society when Americans were paid a living wage and could buy the food they desired, a message Food Not Bombs has expressed from our founding. A message that has placed Food Not Bombs on the F.B.I.’s terrorist watch list.

In April 2009 C-Span aired a lecture by two U.S. State Department officials comparing “the people that share vegan meals in the parks” and al-Qaeda. The speaker concluded that the vegan meals were a greater threat to national security than al-Qaeda because the young people sharing the meals were friendly and the message was powerful. The officials feared that the public would be moved and press Congress to divert military spending to things like education, healthcare and other social services.

It really could be that simple. If every Food Not Bombs group made a point of having banners, signs and literature at meals shared at a time and location where the most people possible would visit we might inspire change. Along with literature encouraging a transition to a future free from corporate domination each meal provided a place for musicians and puppeteers to preform and a forum for the public to share their ideas and dreams who knows what would happen. Indymedia, Food Not Lawns Gardens, Bikes Not Bombs, Homes Not Jails and the Really Really Free Markets all sprang from conversations inspired by the literature and banners at Food Not Bombs.

It is no wonder the authorities want to stop our meals and have banned or limited the sharing of food in public in over 50 U.S. cities. The meals could be revolutionary. They could bring people together and end the country’s system of hunger and poverty.

Food Not Bombs
P.O. Box 424
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA
1-800-884-1136
http://www.foodnotbombs.net
The October 5, 2013 citation issued in Taos, New Mexico. 
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/october_5_violation.html
The first wiretap memo – http://www.foodnotbombs.net/wiretap1.html

Message sent to Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry on October 7, 2013
Hi Keith.
 
Well, yesterday Sacramento Food not Bombs was kicked out of the Cesar Chavez Park by the Sacramento police. We were greeted by about 15 officers when we arrived at the park  when we normally do in time to start sharing the meal we created by 1:30pm. We were told that our stuff would be confiscated and we would get a summons due to an ordinece that has yet to even be passed that would prevent any group from handing out free hot meal in the park.
When it rains we move over to the east side of the park and across the street where there is an awning in front of three businesses that are not open on Sundays. So , this is where we moved to yesterday to actually continue with what we set out to do which is sharing the hot meal we created.
 
The police harassment began when we arrived at the park to try and serve the meal, continued when we moved across the street, and persisted until finally packed up. At one point a Food Not Bombs volunteer was accosted by a bicycle cop while she went to her truck to get a bread donation and then return to where we were set up – he was trying to continue to tell her that the Sacramento police do not want homeless people in the Cesar Chavez Park or even around the park. I was accosted by the same bicycle cop when I left where we were set up to  walk a couple blocks and let everyone know where we were set up. Eventually – I’m guessing it was the captain stood on the park side of the street and began video taping us where we were set up for about the final 10 -15 minutes.
 
We moved across the street reluctantly and would really like to continue to stay in the park every Sunday at 1:30pm. Wed like to start preparing and making contacts to begin mobilizing.
 
Would you please give me the contacts for every Food Not Bombs chapter in northern California?
Thank you, Keith.
I hope all is well with you.
 
-Petey
Sacramento Food Not Bombs




Is It Legal … To Feed The Homeless?


By Rachael Mason
http://news.thelaw.tv/2012/11/20/is-it-legal-to-feed-the-homeless/
Is it legal to feed the homeless?
Depending on where you live and how you’re planning to provide food for the needy, it might indeed be against the law to feed the homeless.

This year, Philadelphia enacted a ban on serving food in city parks, which affects local charities’ efforts to feed the homeless, reported Bloomberg BusinessWeek. “Under additional rules recently adopted by the city’s health department, those who want to feed the hungry on a sidewalk, road, or other public place outdoors must take a food-safety course and obtain a permit from the city,” reported BusinessWeek.

In Dallas, those who want to give food to homeless people must first become “certified food handlers,” reported the Los Angeles Times. The National Coalition for the Homeless maintains a page detailing the laws that affect sharing of food with homeless in cities across the country.
Examples include Atlanta, which has required all food given to the homeless must be facilitated through one of eight approved providers since 2003. In Baltimore, every food service provider—even if the food is given out for free—must be licensed. In Las Vegas, a permit must be obtained for gathering of more than 25 people gather in a city park.
What other laws affect the homeless?

In many cities, it’s illegal to be homeless, according to a report from the NLCHP. Many of the activities performed by homeless people, like sleeping on the street, are against the law.

“Of the 234 cities surveyed, the report shows that: 40 percent prohibit sleeping in public places, 33 percent prohibit sitting/lying in public places, 56 percent prohibit loitering in public places and 53 percent prohibit begging in public places,” the NLCHP said.

Why should I be concerned about the homeless?
The homeless population includes more people than you might imagine. For example, many residents of the areas hit by Hurricane Sandy still don’t have a place to live.

Every year, more than 2 million kids across the country will experience a period of homelessness every year, according to Covenant House. The nonprofit organization helps homeless kids by providing shelter and other basic necessities and works to help get them off the street.

The number of homeless young people in the U.S. continues to increase. Public schools have reported more than 1 million homeless students are enrolled, according to a June 2012 report released by the U.S. Department of Education.
When it comes down to it, helping the homeless is more cost-effective than sending them to jail. Cost studies in 13 cities and states reveal that, on average, cities spend $87 per day to jail a person, compared to $28 per day for shelter,” according to the NLCHP.

What can I do to help the homeless?
Instead of organizing your own efforts to feed the homeless, consider donating time, money or goods to established nonprofit groups in your area. You might work at a soup kitchen, collect canned goods for a local food bank or donate to an organization that hosts holiday meals for the needy. Rather than buying gifts this season, perhaps you’ll make a donation in the names of your loved ones.

Like executives did recently in Washington, D.C., you might even sleep outside for a night as part of a movement designed to raise awareness of homeless. In Nov. 2012, the group in D.C. spent the night outside Covenant House Washington. Through pledges from family and friends, raised more than $60,000 for the organization, reported the Washington Post.

To find out more about the issue of homeless, visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ website at http://www.endhomelessness.org.




Nearly every week some one contacts me about news that local authorities are threatening to stop the sharing of food in public. This was a particularly busy time for such news. At the same time hunger is on the increase and Congress is voting to cut 39 billion dollars in food stamps. There has never been a more important time to make the struggle for food justice visible.

The eight of us that started Food Not Bombs were profoundly influenced by our participation in the October 6, 1979 Occupation Attempt of Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire. Three decades later it is clear those of us who’s lives were changed by the violent military response to our effort to stop the dangers of nuclear power were tragically correct in our concern. The October 6, 2013 edition of the Washington Post reported that “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that Japan is open to receiving overseas help to contain widening radioactive water leaks at the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima, with leaks and mishaps reported almost daily.“We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem,” Abe said in his English speech to open the conference on energy and environment. “My country needs your knowledge and expertise.”

The dangers of nuclear power have a more direct connection to hunger than we realized in 1979 as teargas rained down on us from helicopters and the National Guard smashed us across our heads with five foot long clubs. Hundreds of millions of people depend on seafood to survive. Fish that are now highly radioactive and may not survive. On October 4, 2013 at least 430 liters of water 6,700 times more radioactive than the legal limit spilled into the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear station and the crisis is only increasing. We have no idea what impact this is having on sea and how many will go hungry as their food supply is poisoned.

This October 6th I have had the honor to participate in the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill organized by students from around the United States. Their knowledge and dedication is inspiring. The conference opened with a presentation called “The Faces of Homelessness” where three formally homeless people spoke about their lives and the hunger they faced living on the streets. We watched the film “A Place at the Table” and shared conversations about possible solutions to hunger. Brett Weisel the Director of Advocacy for Feeding America spoke just after I had received an email about the city of Olympia, Washington seeking to stop the sharing of meals by the charity Crazy Faith Outreach. The article reported that “two weeks ago the outreach hit a snag when several nearby business owners, including Pam Tuttle, complained to the city. ‘We end up with a lot of traffic,’ Tuttle said. ‘We have had problems with garbage.’ City Manager Steve Hall said after he received those complaints, Olympia police investigated and found several safety violations, including dozens of people walking into traffic and blocking cars.”

Just as the conference was about to start I get a call from one of the Santa Monica Food Not Bombs organizers. He told me that a paster Ron Hooks of West Coast Care had been trying to get the group to stop sharing their vegan meals on the downtown promenade. According to several newspaper articles Ron describes West Coast Care as a nonprofit working with the Santa Monica Police Department’s Joint Homeless Outreach Program. Santa Monica Food Not Bombs shares every Thursday evening at the Third Street Promenade long after the shops are closed.

An article in the July 11, 2103 edition of the Boulder Weekly reported that “Groups that feed the homeless in downtown Boulder on Saturdays say the city is trying to run them out of the area in yet another attempt to get rid of those the city considers undesirable.”
“But city officials insist that they support the feeding operations, and that they are just trying to alleviate congestion in the area and reduce criminal activity.”
Back in North Carolina the Raleigh police told groups that they would be arrested if they continued to share meals in public. After news of the threat was posted all over the web and it was clear that there was opposition to the closing of the meals city officials stop the police. In mid August 2013 news was posted on a number of activist website. ” This story is exploding on social media since it was posted by Love Wins, a ministry in Raleigh. Human Beans Together is another group suddenly barred by the Raleigh police from giving out food to the homeless in Moore Square on the weekends, when soup kitchens don’t operate.”
“Folks are heading to Moore Square today at 4, when Food Not Bombs is intending to do its regular food distribution — or try, anyway.”
On August 25th it was reported that “Food Not Bombs did bring food and they were allowed to distribute it. The Raleigh police stood down after Mayor Nancy McFarlane and numerous Council members intervened today with Police Chief Deck-Brown and Acting City Manager Perry James.” The article notes that “A permit to use Moore Square is apparently $800 a day.”
As I was watching the Oxfam staff prepare for that evening’s Hunger Banquet I get a text from the Food Not Bombs volunteers in Taos. The State of New Mexico Environmental Health official stopped by our weekly meal and asked if I was still in Baltimore as he handed one of our volunteers David Lewis a $500 citation issued to me for selling food at the Taos Plaza on October 5th without a permit. Another volunteer David Cortez filmed the exchange and posted it to my Facebook minutes after it happened. The same official issued me another $500 citation on June 1, 2013 crossing out the words selling writing in sharing. At the time rumor had it that a new food vendor from out of town had filed a complaint but they have moved on so it is not clear why the officials working for America’s hungriest state would issue a citation to someone who was busy participating in a hunger and poverty conference in North Carolina.

When I visited the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program website it said “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available.
After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again.”
Just before the government shut down the U.S. Congress approved a three-year nutrition bill (H.R. 3102), with a partisan 217-210 vote, that aims to cut about $40 billion over 10 years for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and provide various reforms to the program. House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said the bill includes “reasonable changes” to address the “growing and growing and growing” amount of SNAP recipients. “There are still jobs available in America,” Sessions said. “They may not be ones you want to stay in your whole life.” Democratic congress people said that 4 million low-income people, including 170,000 veterans would be cut from the food stamp program because of the vote.

the government shit down will stop payments to over 9 million low-income women and children who qualify for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children also known as WIC. Feeding hungry children is not considered essential yet 350,000 furloughed civilian employees of the Pentagon will retune to work on Monday.

The federal government and corporate leaders understand the power of groups like Food Not Bombs and work hard to reduce our influence. Officials arrested nine volunteers sharing food and information at the entrance to Golden Gate Park on August 15, 1988. The police told the media that they did not mind that we were feeding the hungry. They objected to our message stating that we “were making a political statement and that is not allowed.” They told the media that the city would provide buses to take the hungry out of sight to a military facility out by the beach and we could feed people there but we could not have banners and literature and share food where the public could see us.

After making nearly 1,000 arrests the authorities realized that the most effective method to reducing our visibility was to discourage the display of literature, signs and banners. One very vocal volunteer started an email campaign in 1997 suggesting Food Not Bombs would feed more people if we removed the banner and flyers. He also offered to post my first book on the web. I had moved to Lawrence Kansas at that time to volunteer with the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. The volunteer flooded the original Food Not Bombs list serv with messages about our need to become a charity and end our effort to change society. It was not until I received an email from food activist Sandor Katz
asking to use a section of the book “Food Not Bombs – How to feed the hungry and build community” in his book “The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved” that I discovered that the volunteer had edited my online book to remove the social change aspect from the text. The section of my book that Sandor Katz emailed to me was clearly not my work so I asked him where he found it. He directed me to the website where I discovered that my book had been radically changed.

People became so frustrated with his constant posting on the subject they left the list and in a year it was abandon and closed down. In 2003 a journalist from Australia flew to the United States to film Food Not Bombs. She wished to film the group in San Francisco because it was so famous. We drove to San Francisco and joined a volunteer who was cooking in an apartment in the Haight District. While waiting for the pot of soup to cook he told me that there had been a box of literature and some banners left in a closet and wondered if I would be interested in taking them. I suggested he could use them at his meal but he said it was too much work. He explained that items had been placed in the closet by the past volunteer who turned out to be the one that altered my book and waged the campaign to be less visible. We traveled to United Nations Plaza to film the meal. Eight or nine people wondered up to enjoy a cup of soup. Four or five young people stood near by. As someone came for soup they would give them a flyer about their church service and talk with them about being saved. The filmmaker was disappointed having traveled so far to video tape the group that had made history and was sharing meals twice a day seven days a week to several hundred people each meal.

I was invited to be the keynote speaker at “The Great Food Fight” in North Hampton England. It turned out that the lest expensive way to fly to Europe was through Reykjavik, Iceland so I arranged to visit the local Food Not Bombs group. We prepared the meal at a volunteers home took it to the main intersection downtown and retrieved several signs from a pub next to the serving location. One sign had the complete text of a flyer explaining about Food Not Bombs written with a marker in English on one side and in Icelandic on the other. They also provided a suit case full of literature.

People gathered to eat and soon were busy debating the ideas expressed on the signs and flyers. Before long the people were telling me about how a people started a lively debate about reform of the government or a fundamental change of society. The discussion was sparked by the statements on the signs and information on the flyers. They said the conversation continued at the next weeks meal and it was agreed that they should march on the parliament building and off they went. Word spread and many more people came to the next Food Not Bombs meal. Lunch ended in a second march. When I arrived they had just taken down the government. Several people had been arrested after removing the flag of Iceland and replacing it with a flag of the county’s discount chain Bónus with its logo of a pink piggy bank. Protesters march to the jail demanding the release of the prisoners.

The protests grew so large that prime minister Geir Haarde resigned in 2009. He was prosecuted in a special trial for bringing the country to ruin. “A court ruled that he failed to hold cabinet meetings focused on the spiraling crisis ahead of the North Atlantic island’s financial implosion, which marked one of the seminal moments of the global panic caused by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.” but he was spared any time in prison even though he could have been sentenced to two year. The Icelandic people started to rewrite their constitution and refused to bail out the banks. The banner and literature at our meals can mean trouble for those in power and the state knows this.
The message from nearly every speaker at the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference came to the same conclusion. We have abundant resources. We just don’t have access to food, housing and healthcare because of policies that benefit the 1 percent and have turned what should be a basic human right into a commodity. The biggest change in perspective I witnessed was with Feed America when Brett Weisel stated that there focus was on “shortening the line for food” and working to for a society when Americans were paid a living wage and could buy the food they desired, a message Food Not Bombs has expressed from our founding. A message that has placed Food Not Bombs on the F.B.I.’s terrorist watch list.
In April 2009 C-Span aired a lecture by two U.S. State Department officials comparing “the people that share vegan meals in the parks” and al-Qaeda. The speaker concluded that the vegan meals were a greater threat to national security than al-Qaeda because the young people sharing the meals were friendly and the message was powerful. The officials feared that the public would be moved and press Congress to divert military spending to things like education, healthcare and other social services.
It really could be that simple. If every Food Not Bombs group made a point of having banners, signs and literature at meals shared at a time and location where the most people possible would visit we might inspire change. Along with literature encouraging a transition to a future free from corporate domination each meal provided a place for musicians and puppeteers to preform and a forum for the public to share their ideas and dreams who knows what would happen. Indymedia, Food Not Lawns Gardens, Bikes Not Bombs, Homes Not Jails and the Really Really Free Markets all sprang from conversations inspired by the literature and banners at Food Not Bombs.
It is no wonder the authorities want to stop our meals and have banned or limited the sharing of food in public in over 50 U.S. cities. The meals could be revolutionary. They could bring people together and end the country’s system of hunger and poverty.

Food Not Bombs
P.O. Box 424
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA
1-800-884-1136
http://www.foodnotbombs.net
The October 5th ticket – http://www.foodnotbombs.net/october_5_violation.html

http://blog.foodnotbombs.net/effort-to-hide-the-hungry-continues-across-the-united-states/

Constitution Day – September 17th

After spending 17 days in the Orange County Jail for violating Orlando’s Large Group Feeding Law I returned to my swamped email account to discover Ad-busters net me an announcement to “Occupy Wall Street.” on September 17th. Before the city started their arrests of our volunteers at Lake Eola Park we had been helping Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and other activists organize the Occupation of Freedom Plaza on the tenth anniversary of the U.S invasion of Afghanistan. We had posted an announcement on our Food Not Bombs website months before the Orlando arrests. They had already contributed $500 for rice.

On December 17, 2010 twenty-six year old produce vender Mohammed Bouazizi douses himself in paint thinner and sets himself on fire in front of a local municipal office in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia literally sparking a nationwide uprising forcing their dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Al from office on January 14, 2011. Egyptians were insipid by events in Tunisia and after an 18 day occupation of Tahrir Square dictator Mubarak stepped down. As we were preparing to resist Orlando’s law imitating the sharing of meals and information to two times a year per park the 15-M Movement was starting to occupy plazas in over 50 Spanish cities on May 15, 2011. The Orlando police make their first arrests attempting to silence our twice weekly meal and information table on June 1, 2011 minutes before we were about to march to city hall to start our occupation against the criminalization of poverty.

We had chosen to set up occupations on the first of every month in solidarity with the Strategy-31 movement in Russia that had chosen to protest on the 31st of the month to honor Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution also guarantees freedom of assembly and free speech.

The struggle to bring dignity and rights has always been challenging. My great great grandfather’s grand father Dr James McHenry was the seventh delegate to sign the U.S. Constitution at Independence Hall in the colonial port of Philadelphia on September 17, 1787 that we now celebrate as Constitution Day. Dr. McHenry immigrated from Dublin, Ireland seeking to studying under Doctor Benjamin Rush but not long after arriving in the colonies McHenry was asked to travel to Cambridge Port in the Massachusetts colony. There had been a battle between the colonists and the King’s forces in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. More battles were expected so McHenry wrote our his will and rode north from Philadelphia to organize a field hospital. On June 17, 1775 the King’s Red Coats clashed with the colonists in what has become the Battle of Bunker Hill. McHenry helped direct the medical care of nearly 450 wounded colonists. Sadly 140 Minute Men died of their injuries. The Red Coats suffered 226 dead and 828 wounded. George Washington arrived to command the just formed Continental Army meeting the young doctor at the field hospital on the banks of the Charles River. Washington and McHenry became friends soon after the Battle of Bunker Hill and worked together throughout the War for Independence, participated with the Continental Congress signing the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. McHenry continued the friendship after the formation of the Federation joining Washington’s cabinet as Secretary of War.

This Constitution Day we might want to reflect on the startling pace with which the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have become little more than a memory.

Years before Snowden inspired the current national dialog about the erosion of our Constitutional rights many of us were shocked at President Obama’s support of many policies that turned the ideas of the founders upside down. Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) late on New Years Eve 2011. The new law makes it legal for the military to pick up any American even on American soil and detain them without trial until the end of the War On Terror. This law claims that the United States it self is in the theater of the War On Terror. After 9/11 a radical change in policing was introduced called the United States Northern Command that directs the Consequence Management Response Force from its base in in Colorado Springs and is charged with joining civilian law enforcement in investigating community activists in the United States. Reports claim the military is prepared to use force against civil unrest suggesting that they may be needed in the event of an economic crisis. A nonviolent movement like Occupy might if it is able to encourage enough Americans to demand their Constitutional rights could be a target of the U.S. Army’s Consequence Management Response Force.

Very few Senators or Congress People voted against this law. There is also a question about Obama’s “Kill List” that includes Americans. Three U.S. citizens have already been killed and were on this list. Anwar Al-Awlaki, his 16 year old son Abdurrrahman Al awlaki and Samir Khan. A secret Presidential panel has drafted and continues to update this list. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told an audience at Northwestern in Chicago that ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.” A month before the Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, did told a Yale Law School audience that “it was notable for the nation’s top law enforcement official to declare that it is constitutional for the government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances.”

Occupy Wall Street organized against the passage of the NDAA as we experienced a nationwide assault on our legal nonviolent protest. What we did not know until a document obtained from Houston FBI office in December 2012 as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Washington, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund noted on page 61 that some one had wanted to “formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.” Even though the police stopped and questioned me eight times during Occupy and arrested me once on a 1983 warrant for taping a flyer against the war on El Salvador on a light pole in Cambridge not one officer told me I that I could be killed “via suppressed sniper rifles.”

This week Food Not Bombs volunteers are facing new trouble with the authorities. Over 50 cities have passed laws banning or limiting the sharing of free meals in public. This week I received a call from our volunteers in Santa Monica asking for support. News has leaked that the police want the group to stop providing meals to the hungry. Authorities suggest that the group may need an environmental health permit but as we learned during ten years of arrests in San Francisco the law is clear, people sharing food with the hungry as a gift are not required to have a permit from the health department. Such permits are reserved for companies that could profit from ignoring food safety issues.

The effort to close Santa Monica Food Not Bombs follows news that the on September 12th the Suffolk County police on Long Island arrived to the meal threatened our volunteers with arrest if they returned for next weeks Food Sharing. The police stated that complaints were made, but did not elaborate on what those complaints were nor offer any option to our community besides ending our weekly Farmingville Food Share.

Reports of efforts by the authorities to silence Food Not Bombs have become routine since the police violently crushed the Occupation movement. In April 2009 a U.S. State Department official gave a lecture comparing Food Not Bombs to Al-Qaeda making the point that our message which should be considered Constitutionally protected speech was a greater threat to national security than suicide bombers.

On September 17, 2013 American’s are dizzy from revelations of massive spying. SInce Snowden shared news about the Fourth Amendment violations of National Security Agency the public has learned that the government is able to monitor nearly every aspect of our personal lives. Our license plates are video taped as we travel through our community with the time, date and location of our movements converted into a computer loge for local, state and federal officials to review. All phone calls, every email and web visit is also logged as is all of our snail mail.

While these and other programs are clear violations of the U.S. Constitution they are also important tools in the government’s campaign to silence opposition to their pro corporate policies. The surveillance state used the information it collected to frame and entrap Food Not Bombs volunteers Jeremy Hammond, Eric McDavid Brandon Baxter and  Connor Stevens all of whom are doing a decade or more in prison. The FBI targeted Baxter and Stevens at the Occupy Cleveland kitchen spending tens of thousands of tax dollars to involve them in an FBI May Day Bombing plot designed to make sure we did not occupy as planned. Hammond simply shared information about illegal surveillance by Stratfor with WIkileaks. He faced life in prison but maybe sentenced to ten years having used the threat of never seeing freedom again to force a plea bargain. Eric McDavid did absolutely not one thing that could be considered a crime yet he was sentence to 20 years in prison after the FBI sent an informant Anna to be his girlfriend. After several years volunteering with Food Not Bombs and other activists groups Anna was not able to convince Eric to commit any crime at all so the government had to resort to pitting Eric’s co-defendants against one another using the information of Wren’s love for Eric and the attention Eric paid to Anna and threats of life in prison to suggest Eric was the center of an FBI created bombing plot. The last action they had participated in before their arrest in California was the coordination of the 2005 Food Not Bombs World Gathering in Philadelphia. Anna caused the closing all group meeting to break out into a fight when she announced that the “women at the gathering had not yet dealt with the issues between themselves and their fathers,” a subject not on the agenda which did include future actions of the Food Not Bombs movement, inter group coordination and a rededication to taking nonviolent direct action subjects that were never discussed after her outbreak.

if we do not organize to save our Constitution September 17th might well be remembered as the anniversary of a good idea that was crushed on behalf of protecting corporate power and the government hired to defend the interests of the wealthiest one percent.

This is a great day to reconsider the strategy of Occupation. It is a strategy that had impact during the Great Depression when the Bonus March occupied Washington DC. We have Social Security and many other programs in part because of the power of the Bonus March. In 1989 the Occupation of Tiananmen Square challenged the Chinese authorities sparking years of civil resistance. The Tiananmen Square occupation also inspired the 1989 Tent City Protest at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco forcing the authorities to temporarily end their violent campaign against the homeless. More importantly we learned a lot from that 27 day occupation. Skills we were able to use when we occupied the entrance to George Bush’s Ranch in Crawford, Texas during Camp Casey and our relief efforts after Katrina and Sandy.

After participating in the protests against the World Trade Organization in Cancun, Mexico in September 2003 a group of us meet to critique the action. I was a couple yards away from South Korean farmer Lee Kyang Hae when he stabbed himself to death clinging to a chain linked fence in protest to the policies of the WTO. Hae was president of the South Korea’s Federation of Farmers and Fishermen. “His death is not a personal accident but reflects the desperate fighting of 3.5 million Korean farmers,” said Song Nan Sou, president of the Farmers Management Association. Plain clothes police responded by throwing chances of concrete at us. I ducted under a parked car to avoid being injured. Official labor unions, Mexican and U.S. authorities controlled the protest disempowering many of us. Those of us that met proposed the strategy of occupation. I volunteered to post a website on the strategy.

Many of us had participated in the 1999 protest in Seattle. Rather than blockade the next economic summit we thought we would have more impact organizing occupations in communities all over the world. We could organize democratic communities that provided for the public good providing a contrast to the social order being implemented by the WTO and institutions working for corporate domination.

I offered to encourage support for this strategy. Occupations have proven to be one of the most powerful forms of nonviolent direct action. The economic and political crisis will continue so we have all winter to organize for to reoccupy this May Day. We may wish to have another name for the action and seek to simplify our message but the basic idea could work.

We learned a lot from the last wave of occupations. The government was effective at stopping the re-occupation on May Day 2012 by encouraging the use of violence. The FBI spent the winter implementing a bombing plot in Cleveland, encouraging some of those cooking at Occupy Cleveland to use C-4 on a bridge in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund posted internal FBI and Homeland Security memos about the government’s work with corporate security to stop the occupations. I believe we can over come many of the strategies used by the authorities to disrupt the occupations detailed in the internal FBI and Homeland Security memos provided by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

One way may be the formation of affinity groups to reduce the chaos at general assemblies. Another is the adoption of a nonviolence code as we did before the 1999 blockades in Seattle. We can also organize Nonviolence trainings and preparations in communities all across the United States. As author and permaculturalists Starhawk noted in her article “How We Really Shut Down the WTO” she recalls that “Each participant in the action was asked to agree to the nonviolence guidelines: To refrain from violence, physical or verbal; not to carry weapons, not to bring or use illegal drugs or alcohol, and not to destroy property. We were asked to agree only for the purpose of the 11/30 action–not to sign on to any of these as a life philosophy, and the group acknowledged that there is much diversity of opinion around some of these guidelines.”

This made it possible for thousands of us to work in coordination using a process we had all agreed to and practiced during the year before the protest.

We organized the UnFree Trade Tour in 1997 to educate the public about the dangers of the World Trade Organization suggesting a strategy for the nonviolent blockade of the economic summit. Food Not Bombs also formed Indymeda in preparation of the 1995 International Gathering in San Francisco and shared the idea of forming Indymedia Centers or IMCs during a number of tours including the Rent Is Theft and The UnFree Trade Tour. Having IMCs all across the world made it possible to share news of the Seattle Protest breaking corporate media silence. It is interesting to recall that Facebook and other mega corporations used the self publishing code designed by Indymedia to build their empires.

We could start preparing for the next re-occupation of public space as we also remember the successes and failures of Occupy Wall Street. We could start organizing local meetings to form affinity groups and announce plans to hold nonviolent direct action preparations.

I for one can not sit by hopeless as the rights once protected by the U.S. Constitution vanish. This struggle wont be easy but it wasn’t easy for people like Washington and McHenry during the dark days of Valley Forge yet they persevered and provided a guide for future generations moving from the authoritarian rule of kings and queens towards a belief that everyone has the right to determine their own destiny. It would be devastating for our community and the environment if we stood by and allowed a return to dictatorial rule.

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/occupy_supplies.html

OUR NINE ELEVEN

September 12, 2013

A local Taos man suffering a heart attack on May 21st could not be saved. According to the Taos News when volunteer fire fighters dialed 911 “The call went unanswered. Dispatchers in Taos heard only a faint rasp. The man died.” We have money for war but when it comes to real National Security issues like 911 emergency services the funds are not there.

This September 11th we woke to news that Obama still claims he may need to bomb Syria if negotiations with Russia and Assad fail. Remember that Saddam complied with every U.S. demand letting inspectors in to seek for weapons of mass destruction taking away every U.S. excuse for war but proving a negative was impossible and America bombed Iraq anyway. That war continued to this day. A limited attack on Syria may ignite a global war and maybe an economic collapse as oil prices sore after the Strait of Hormuz is too dangerous to navigate. The murder and chaos that would follow an Al-Qaeda victory in Syria would be staggering. All Al-Qaeda needs is U.S air support.

This September 11th is also the one year anniversary of an event in Libya that should remind us of just how well Obama’s limited wars can work out. On September 11, 2013 CNN reported that “A car bomb exploded outside a Foreign Ministry building in the Libyan city of Benghazi Wednesday, state media said, on the anniversary of an assault on the U.S. Consulate there that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.” By the time you read this essay news of this reminder may well be eclipsed by an even more dramatic “Pearl Harbor” type event.

Imagine if Obama spent as much energy encouraging America to change our policies to slow climate change or spoke on every network pleading to congress to pass a universal healthcare bill, fund research and development on alternative energy or pass a farm bill that would subsidize organic agriculture. Sadly he would rather go all out for another war while ignoring the real national threats of climate change, hunger, poverty or the student loan crisis.

For most of my life September 11th reminded me of the US backed coup against Salvador Allende in Chili and the public murder of folk musician Víctor Jara who’s hands were cut off before thousands of other prisoners at the Santiago Stadium. But in 2001 nine eleven marked the day I was added to the official U.S. “black list” and banned from official employment in the United States, first being fired from United Way, than Sun Sounds Radio for the Blind where my boss told me naïvely of the Homeland Security “Black List” followed by my last official job at Western National Parks Association.

Banned from employment I headed out on the “Drop Bush Not Bombs Tour” first visiting Food Not Bombs groups in North America followed by a three month tour of Europe and the Middle East funded by friends and the sale of my first book “Food Not Bombs – How to Feed the Hungry and Build Community.”

The tour took me the Balkans where I visited Belgrade Food Not Bombs in October 2003. As we prepared that weekend’s meal at the Rebel Squat local volunteers asked me if Michael Moore’s move “Bowling for Columbine” was based on reality. Did Americans really have guns and used them against one another? They were surprised to learn that civilians are allowed to be armed something I often hear when traveling outside the states. I also shared that I had just read Moore’s book “Hey Dud Where’s my Country?” and mentioned he finished the book calling on the American people to vote for General Wesley Clark for president. Everyone in the room gasped and started to recount Wesley Clark’s 1999 bombing Serbia. One volunteer, Emma, told me how she was an intern at a local hospital that cared for over 750 deformed children some with two heads, others with five arms and others with just one eye. Depleted uranium was America’s choice of “chemical weapon” in that assault. Food Not Bombs activists painted targets on t-shirts daring Clark to kill them. They told of the fear caused when Cruise Missiles slowly floated above the streets of Belgrade seeking targets. Everyone lost friends and family and almost lost hope but they bounced back eager to share the trauma of a US Air War on a modern city. Their toilet was the Cruise Missile crater that had forced the occupants the home they were squatting to flee to France.

Imperialism has a long history of using chemical weapons. Professor Howard Zinn started “The People’s History of the United States” with an account of the first use of weapons of mass destruction in service of imperialism in the “new World” the ever effective blankets of small pox. His history book continues with America’s use of one brutal advance in mass murder after another from simple bombs dropped on Mexican Rebels to the nuclear bombing of Japan.

While the U.S. media seems to have forgotten America’s use of banned chemical weapons the rest of the world remembers. After the last U.S. war on Iraq started the British Parliament ordered a study of the invasion and issued a report on the United States use of Mark 77 – 750 pound fuel gel napalm bombs on civilians during the early days of “Shock and Awe.” Before that invasion American leaders including my neighbor Rumsfield provided Iraq with chemical weapons that were used against Iran and during an internal war against the Kurdish population.

The U.S. also used more fuel gel bombs and white phosphorus on the people of Fallujah in November 2004. The March–April 2005 online Field Artillery magazine has confirmed the use of WP (white phosphorus) in so-called “shake ‘n bake” attacks, so the use of white phosphorus is substantiated by US Army sources only for screening and psychological effects: The Iraqi ministry of health installed by the Bush administration announced that their surveys and studies after the 2004 assault “confirm that US forces used substances that are internationally prohibited – including mustard gas, nerve gas, and other burning chemicals – in the course of its attacks on the city.”
According to a study released by the Switzerland-based International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in July 2010 noted that “the increases in cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio in Fallujah are significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.” Hundreds of children deformed by the U.S. chemical attacks suffer in Iraqi hospitals as the war America continues to rage across Iraq.

At the same time Obama and Congress are investing so much energy drumming up support for another war it turns out that one in two civilians in the United States are still struggling to survive. The government may close in October. According to a September 9, 2013 Washington Post article “The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and government agencies will start shutting down if some type of budget bill isn’t enacted by then.” It also says that “The government’s ability to borrow more money will probably end in late October if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.” This real “National Security Threat” seems to be off the agenda as Millions of Americas face delays and reductions in Food Stamps while food prices continue to increase. Two days of bombing Syria could feed all the refugees fleeing the war for months or save one hundred Taos Hospitals from the painful budget cuts our community must make this week laying off healthcare workers, reducing services and increasing fees. Taos isn’t the only hospital forced to make huge budget cuts. The Bend Bulletin’s September 11, 2013 article starts with “A federal budget-cutting proposal threatens to reduce Medicare payments to 15 rural Oregon hospitals, and hospital and state officials said the impact could be devastating. The proposal involves “critical access hospitals” that get higher Medicaid payments under a program started in 1997 amid a wave of hospital closures in rural America.” So calling 911 may not lead to emergency treatment at your local hospital. When you call 911 in my community you have no idea what might happen. A local man suffering a heart attack on May 21st could not be saved. According to the Taos News when volunteer Fire Fighters called 911 “The call went unanswered. Dispatchers in Taos heard only a faint rasp. The man died.”

Congress has not been able to pass a federal budget, not even a budget that would continue to redirect America’s resources to the very corporations that enjoy using our nation’s infrastructure of highways, power grids and surveillance without having to pay one dime in federal taxes.

A desperate man called our hunger hot line today. Like others that call our toll free number he had not eaten in seven days. He told me that the Sheriff’s Department visited his home but told him they were not in the business of feeding people. Food Bank couldn’t help either but 211 was able to give him our number. We still plan to help even though we don’t have the funds necessary to drive to his home in Madrid, New Mexico. Our last dollar was used to transport food to hundred of hungry children in Nairobi Kenya but that is fine, the funds seem to arrive just in time. The people come through even if the state can not.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York Food Not Bombs arrived with hot vegan meals to support the rescue workers. Arby’s Roast beef showed up a couple days latter but the first responders remarked that their sandwiches smelled like Ground Zero so their help was short lived. When the carbon industry Super Storms Katrina and Sandy attacked our communities we joined the citizen rescue squad with our joyously prepared meals, cleaning supplies, fresh water and commission. Every week during the perpetual war of poverty volunteers faithfully arrive on street corners, parks and plazas ready to nourish the local community.

The other emergency call this nine eleven is to the Senate Intelligence Committee and Obama’s web of spy agencies. News revealed on this 9/11 shows that “The National Security Agency openly shares unfiltered intelligence files with the Israeli government, according to a classified document leaked to the Guardian newspaper by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.”

Domestic spying has consequences. For example Food Not Bombs expected to receive the final payment of $500 from a grant provided by World Peace Earth to help secure the water pump at the Free Skool from this winter’s freezing nights. Two other urgently needed donations also failed to arrive. When I went to pick up the mail on August 21st, the day of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria our post box was empty. It was empty again the next day and every day since. Our mail box was empty for 21 days in a row with at least $1,200 in promised donations lost to the winds or as Senator Tom Udall’s very helpful office suggested it may have been lost to the F.B.I. as had been the case when not one piece of mail arrived from June 1, 2008 to November 1, 2008 the same time the F.B.I. started to infiltrate Minneapolis Food Not Bombs. The informants suggested that bombing the police or Republican delegates might be a great strategy. Even though the Food Not Bombs volunteers declined to support the plot the Food Not Bombs house was raided the morning before the Republican National Convention and eight volunteers were charged under the Minnesota Patriot Act.

Food Not Bombs volunteer Jeremy Hammond was targeted by the FBI for sharing the Stratfor or Strategic Forecasting files with Wikileaks. Like Snowden, the information Hammond made public has been critical in understanding the impossibility of forming a free and democratic America unless we dismantle the Intelligence industry. The freejeremy.net website asks that everyone write Judge Loretta Preska and ask that she give him a sentence of time served. He has been held since March 2012 often in solitary confinement. They suggest you include a statement such as this in your letter. “I am appalled that Jeremy Hammond is facing a decade in prison for exposing corporate spying. Already, he has been incarcerated since March 2012, held in solitary confinement, and at times has been denied the ability to communicate with his family. Jeremy has done enough time already. Please consider granting him a sentence of time served.” Jeremy’s sentencing is to occur on November 15, 2013 in the Southern District of New York.

Food Not Bombs volunteers Eric McDavid, Brandon Baxter and  Connor Stevens are in prison today as a result of F.B.I. infiltration, surveillance following the government’s elaborate and expensive creation of phony bombing plots.
The programs revealed by Snowden are more than curiosities or a violation of our Constitutional rights. The principle task of the Intelligence Industry to make sure democracy never comes to America and protect corporate power’s freedom to ravage the environment, exploit labor and guarantee that they can operate not only tax free but absorb as much of the public coffers as they can before there is a revolution in the streets.
The crushing poverty and hunger is our 911 and the people are as always the first responders in the economic and political terrorism attack of corporate greed.

You can respond by joining Food Not Bombs. Start or join a Food Not Bombs group in your community and provide organic vegan meals and inspiring literature under the banner Food Not Bombs. Also consider bringing Food Not Bombs cofounder Keith McHenry to your community this fall. The presentation will bring hope and a realistic strategy to transform our society for the better. Food Not Bombs will respond to your 911 call.

The Smashing Hunger, Squashing Poverty Tour
http://www.foodnotbombs.net/speaker.html
menu@foodnotbombs.net
1-800-884-1136

Eleven people in Santa Cruz were charged with felonies after being accused of the temporary “occupation” in November 2011 of an abandoned bank building at 75 River Street that was owned by Wells Fargo. District Attorney Rebekah Young targeted eleven local community organizers with trespass and vandalism charges. The perfect political target in a city where banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America had illegally foreclosed on families forcing them on to the streets where it is illegal to sleep outside and must risk arrest just for living in their own community.

The case of the Santa Cruz Eleven comes during an important time when millions of people are taking action against the corrupt economic system. The real criminals are those who designed and implemented the policies that have ruined families and caused the suffering of so many. Wells Fargo executives Donald James, John Stumf and the other board members should be held at the county jail waiting trial for grand theft. In my June 2013 visit to Santa Cruz several people told me how the banks and government officials robbed them of their homes taking all they had after working hard their entire lives.

In March 2011 people organized a protest outside the Watsonville Branch of Wells Fargo in Santa Cruz County. They were outraged that the bank had taken the homes of so many people in the community. Lauro Navarro came to the protest because the banks had just evicted him and his family from a home he had built with his own hands. Mayor Daniel Dodge of Watsonville attended the protest saying that “This is a real crisis that hits home.” He also told the media that more than 8,000 homes locally had been affected since 2008 worth $4 billion and a loss of $26 million in property taxes. Nearly 200 teachers had to be let go as a result.

The stress of foreclosure can be too much for some. Newbury Park resident Norman Rousseau was preparing to move his family into an RV in May 2012 when he shot himself to death distressed from a year long struggle with Wells Fargo. The bank had claimed Rousseau had not made his May 2009 mortgage payment using this to justify the taking of his home but during the law suit the bank admitted there had been a mix up. “Our thoughts are with the friends and family of Mr. Rousseau at this difficult time. The eviction has been postponed and we will continue to work with Mrs. Rousseau,” a Wells Fargo spokesperson told The Huffington Post in an email. “Despite current reports, we tried repeatedly to find affordable options for the family.” Evidence that the banks systematically robbed thousands of families of their homes and saving. In a federal lawsuit in Massachusetts Bank of America employees have come forward to describe how they intentionally mislead homeowners using the Home Affordable Modification Program to take their homes. I have heard the story over and over from people eating with Food Not Bombs. They were told to qualify for a mortgage modification that they had to stop making payment for two or three months using the default to justify foreclosure. “Bank of America’s practice is to string homeowners along with no apparent intention of providing the permanent loan modifications it promises,” said Erika Brown, one of the former employees. The damning evidence would spur a series of criminal investigations of BofA executives, if we still had a rule of law in this country for Wall Street banks.”

The Santa Cruz Eleven are understandably worried about having to spend time in prison if convicted and considering the evidence of a major nationally coordinated effort to permanently silence the movement this is a realistic concern. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund recovered nearly 200 pages of FBI and Homeland Security internal memos that showed that the authorities believed that Occupy could become a threat to corporate power so much that there was even a plan to use suppressed sniper rifles to kill the leadership if necessary.

So what is the most effective way defend activists like the eleven facing prison in Santa Cruz? The first thought of coarse is hire lawyers and formulate a legal defense but that might be enough under the currant atmosphere. I say this from experience having faced 25 to life in prison for my work with Food Not Bombs in San Francisco. I had the best attorneys but the pressure to silence me was larger than the fact that all the evidence made it clear I had never participated in any of the crimes I had been accused of. The only thing that keep me out of prison was political organizing.

The business and political leaders pulled out all the stops in an effort to make sure that the public would not be moved to support the idea that food should have a priority over bombs. The law was manipulated, a permit process was invented to justify an end to our effort to change public opinion. The corporate media and most local political leaders sided with the campaign to drive Food Not Bombs out of site. When injunctions, arrests, beatings and infiltration failed to work the authorities framed the “leader” of the movement making me out to be a violent irrational terrorist attacking city officials and stealing beepers and milk crates in my crazed attempt to redirect military spending towards social services like education and healthcare.

Our legal defense was nearly impossible since those that organized my “crimes’ controlled the evidence, media and the legal system. On the other hand we had the truth on our side which we did all we could share. That truth was that our society is broken and that is easy to see when hundreds of people line up twice a day to eat with Food Not Bombs outside City Hall in San Francisco while billions are spent on the military to fight wars for oil, profits and power.

We video tapped nearly every arrest of our volunteers for providing vegan meals and free literature to the public. We filmed hungry families horrified and distressed as they watched the police drag their meals away to the trash. One by one volunteers would be smashed into the sidewalk for sharing bagels or tossed salad. The images told the ugly truth of an America that would rather let its people starve then threaten the profits of the military industrial complex.

So our focus moved from the courts to the streets and offices of influential human rights groups. We organized a letter writing campaign providing flyers at every meal asking for support. The flyers included a request to write President Clinton’s Justice Department Civil Rights Division, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission seeking an investigation into our case. Each organizations’s address was included on the flyer. We also provided internal government and police memos, photos, affidavits and our video of our arrests to the organizations listed on our flyer and delivered additional copies to the offices of foreign governments at the United Nations. We also provided copies to the American Civil Liberties Union and other local allies and activist groups and asked them to ask for an investigation.

While we had our campaign to gain the support of human rights organizations and activist groups we also organized on the streets. Central to the campaign was the sharing of our meals and literature twice every day to show we would not give up. Before each meal we determined who would be willing to risk arrest. We divided the food into three parts and two or three volunteers would share the first smaller portion until they were arrested. As soon as they where hustled off to the police station a couple more volunteers would arrive and share some more food until they were arrested. After the police took them away we would bring out enough food to provide for everyone. The police rarely stopped us the third time. We also organized a campaign called “Risk Arrest One Day a Month with Food Not Bombs” and community groups, unions and religious organizations would share our food and go to jail.

The other strategy was to provide food outside the court house before each court appearance. This too could result in a number of arrests but it also had the impact of discrediting the legal system before people who themselves had been dragged into the system.

Our campaign was dedicated to nonviolent resistance even if at time people would yell at the police during the arrests. Amazingly our persistence slowly won over the rank and file police who started to object to their participation in efforts to stop us.

Our effort to reach President Clinton worked. His office claimed to have reviewed our information and video deciding that city officials were acting lawfully in there brutal campaign to shut down our protest. They would take no action to stop the violence. We shared copies of Clintons’s letter to Amnesty International and the United Nations. This was the final straw and they both announce support for Food Not Bombs. Amnesty International announced that they would declare our volunteers “Prisoners of Conscience” and work for our unconditional release if convicted and made a public statement of condemnation of the United States on the floor of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Switzerland.

Finally one day when my “Three Strikes” trial was about to start the local media turned on the mayor and city officials. The power structure cut their loses. The arrests in San Francisco did stop and I settled my case being sentenced to credit of 500 days served and a year probation. Maybe not a total victory but a lot better than doing 25 years in prison and the campaign helped encourage the start of Food Not Bombs groups in a few hundred cities.

The global wave of protests during the summer of 2013 provide many lessons. Social change takes time. The people of Egypt mobilized to drive out the dictator Mubarak only to replace his authoritarian rule with a new dictator. Just as happened after the Berlin Wall fell global financial institutions and Western governments rushed in to fill the power vacuum.Those risking their lives to bring about change were not prepared to replace the dictatorial system with one that represents the interests of the majority. The increase in hunger and poverty in Egypt was predictable. Morsi quickly became an ally of the United States and other powerful nations agreeing to provide access to the global financial institutions and transnational corporate interests while ignoring the needs of his people. It will take more than the ousting of a dictator to bring about the change required to provide food, healthcare and education. Those of us seeking to bring democracy and economic security to the United States must build an alternate system ready to replace the failing political and economic system.

The struggle of the Santa Cruz Eleven provides a good example of how we can address the growing austerity crisis. While waging an aggressive legal defense is important it may be a more effective defense to build a movement against the real criminals at Wells Fargo like Donald James, John Stumf and the other board members. The authorities were fearful of the occupations organizing a campaign to claim we did not have a coherent message and that we had failed. However the details revealed in the internal FBI and Homeland Security documents recovered by The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the criminal case against the Cleveland Five and the Dissent-or-Terror files obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy show that the Obama administration and corporate leaders were worried that the occupations were a real threat to the economic and political system. Wells Fargo’s coordination with the FBI, Homeland Security and other financial institutions to silence Occupy is another aspect of the criminal conspiracy of the economic elite. Those responsible for destroying the economic security of millions remain free and continue to force families out of their homes, implement policies that criminalize those driven into poverty and clearly have no limits to their own crimes against society.

by Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs

Eleven people in Santa Cruz were charged with felonies after being accused of the temporary “occupation” in November 2011 of an abandoned bank building at 75 River Street that was owned by Wells Fargo. District Attorney Rebekah Young targeted eleven local community organizers with trespass and vandalism charges. The perfect political target in a city where banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America had illegally foreclosed on families forcing them on to the streets where it is illegal to sleep outside and must risk arrest just for living in
their own community.

The case of the Santa Cruz Eleven comes during an important time when millions of people are taking action against the corrupt economic system. The real criminals are those who designed and implemented the policies that have ruined families and caused the suffering of so many. Wells Fargo executives Donald James, John Stumf and the other board members should be held at the county jail waiting trial for grand theft. In my June 2013 visit to Santa Cruz several people told me how the banks and government officials robbed them of their homes taking all they had after working hard their entire lives.

In March 2011 people organized a protest outside the Watsonville Branch of Wells Fargo in Santa Cruz County. They were outraged that the bank had taken the homes of so many people in the community. Lauro Navarro came to the protest because the banks had just evicted him and his family from a home he had built with his own hands. Mayor Daniel Dodge of Watsonville attended the protest saying that “This is a real crisis that hits home.” He also told the media that more than 8,000 homes locally had been affected since 2008 worth $4 billion and a loss of $26 million in property taxes. Nearly 200 teachers had to be let go as a result.

The stress of foreclosure can be too much for some. Newbury Park resident Norman Rousseau was preparing to move his family into an RV in May 2012 when e shot himself to death distressed from a year long struggle with Wells Fargo. The bank had claimed Rousseau had not made his May 2009 mortgage payment using this to justify the taking of his home but during the law suit the bank admitted there had been a mix up. “Our thoughts are with
the friends and family of Mr. Rousseau at this difficult time. The eviction has been postponed and we will continue to work with Mrs. Rousseau,” a Wells Fargo spokesperson told the Huffington Post in an email. “Despite current reports, we tried repeatedly to find affordable options for the family.”

Evidence that the banks systematically robbed thousands of families of their homes and saving. In a federal lawsuit in Massachusetts Bank of America employees have come forward to describe how they intentionally mislead homeowners using the Home Affordable Modification Program to take their homes. I have heard the story over and over from people eating with Food Not Bombs. They were told to qualify for a mortgage modification that they
had to stop making payment for two or three months using the default to justify foreclosure. “Bank of America’s practice is to string homeowners along with no apparent intention of providing the permanent loan modifications it promises,” said Erika Brown, one of the former employees. The damning evidence would spur a series of criminal investigations of B of A executives, if we still had a rule of law in this country for Wall Street banks.”

The Santa Cruz Eleven are understandably worried about having to spend time in prison if convicted and considering the evidence of a major nationally coordinated effort to permanently silence the movement this is a realistic concern. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund recovered nearly 200 pages of FBI and Homeland Security internal memos that
showed that the authorities believed that Occupy could become a threat to corporate power so much that there was even a plan to use suppressed sniper rifles to kill the leadership if necessary.

So what is the most effective way defend activists like the eleven facing prison in Santa Cruz? The first thought, of course, is hire lawyers and formulate a legal defense but that might NOT be enough under the currant atmosphere. I say this from experience having faced 25 to life in prison for my work with Food Not Bombs in San Francisco. I had the best attorneys but the pressure to silence me was larger than the fact that all the evidence made it clear I had never
participated in any of the crimes I had been accused of. The only thing that keep me out of prison was political organizing.

The business and political leaders pulled out all the stops in an effort to make sure that the public would not be moved to support the idea that food should have a priority over bombs. The law was manipulated, a permit process was invented to justify an end to our effort to change public opinion. The corporate media and most local political leaders
sided with the campaign to drive Food Not Bombs out of sight. When injunctions, arrests, beatings and infiltration failed to work the authorities framed the “leader” of the movement making me out to be a violent irrational terrorist attacking city officials and stealing beepers and milk crates in my crazed attempt to redirect military spending towards social services
like education and healthcare.

Our legal defense was nearly impossible since those that organized my “crimes’ controlled the evidence, media and the legal system. On the other hand we had the truth on our side which we did all we could share. That truth was that our society is broken and that is easy to see when hundreds of people line up twice a day to eat with Food Not Bombs outside City Hall in San Francisco while billions are spent on the military to fight wars for oil, profits and power.

We video tapped nearly every arrest of our volunteers for providing vegan meals and free literature to the public. We filmed hungry families horrified and distressed as they watched the police drag their meals away to the trash. One by one volunteers would be smashed into the sidewalk for sharing bagels or tossed salad. The images told the ugly truth of an America that
would rather let its people starve then threaten the profits of the military industrial complex.

So our focus moved from the courts to the streets and offices of influential human rights groups. We organized a letter writing campaign providing flyers at every meal asking for support. The flyers included a request to write President Clinton’s Justice Department Civil Rights Division, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission seeking an investigation into our case. Each organizations’s address was included on the flyer. We also provided internal government and police memos, photos, affidavits and our video of our arrests to the organizations listed on our flyer and delivered additional copies to the offices of foreign governments at the United Nations. We also provided copies to the American
Civil Liberties Union and other local allies and activist groups and asked them to ask for an investigation.

While we had our campaign to gain the support of human rights organizations and activist groups we also organized on the streets. Central to the campaign was the sharing of our meals and literature twice every day to show we would not give up. Before each meal we determined who would be willing to risk arrest. We divided the food into three parts and two or three volunteers would share the first smaller portion until they were arrested.

As soon as they were hustled off to the police station a couple more volunteers would arrive and share some more food until they were arrested. After the police took them away we would bring out enough food to provide for everyone. The police rarely stopped us the third time. We also organized a campaign called “Risk Arrest One Day a Month with Food Not Bombs” and community groups, unions and religious organizations would share our food and go to jail.

The other strategy was to provide food outside the court house before each court appearance. This too could result in a number of arrests but it also had the impact of discrediting the legal system before people who themselves had been dragged into the system.

Our campaign was dedicated to nonviolent resistance even if at time people would yell at the police during the arrests. Amazingly our persistence slowly won over the rank and file police who started to object to their participation in efforts to stop us.

Our effort to reach President Clinton worked. His office claimed to have reviewed our information and video deciding that city officials were acting lawfully in there brutal campaign to shut down our protest. They would take no action to stop the violence. We shared copies of Clinton’s letter to Amnesty International and the United Nations. This was the final straw and they both announce support for Food Not Bombs.

Amnesty International announced that they would declare our volunteers “Prisoners of Conscience” and work for our unconditional release if convicted and made a public statement of condemnation of the United States on the floor of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Switzerland.

Finally one day when my “Three Strikes” trial was about to start the local media turned on the mayor and city officials. The power structure cut their loses. The arrests in San Francisco did stop and I settled my case being sentenced to credit of 500 days served and a year probation. Maybe not a total victory but a lot better than doing 25 years in prison and the campaign helped encourage the start of Food Not Bombs groups in a few hundred cities.

The global wave of protests during the summer of 2013 provide many lessons. Social change takes time. The people of Egypt mobilized to drive out the dictator Mubarak only to replace his authoritarian rule with a new dictator. Just as happened after the Berlin Wall fell global financial institutions and Western governments rushed in to fill the power vacuum. Those risking their lives to bring about change were not prepared to replace the dictatorial system with one that represents the interests of the majority.

The increase in hunger and poverty in Egypt was predictable. Morsi quickly became an ally of the United States and other powerful nations agreeing to provide access to the global financial institutions and transnational corporate interests while ignoring the needs of his people. It will take more than the ousting of a dictator to bring about the change required to provide food, healthcare and education. Those of us seeking to bring democracy and economic security to the United States must build an alternate system ready to replace the failing political and economic system.

The struggle of the Santa Cruz Eleven provides a good example of how we can address the growing austerity crisis. While waging an aggressive legal defense is important it may be a more effective defense to build a movement against the real criminals at Wells Fargo like Donald James, John Stumf and the other board members. The authorities were fearful of the occupations organizing a campaign to claim we did not have a coherent message and that we had failed.

However the details revealed in the internal FBI and Homeland Security documents recovered by The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, the criminal case against the Cleveland Five and the Dissent-or-Terror files obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy show that the Obama administration and corporate leaders were worried that the occupations were a real threat to the economic and political system.

Wells Fargo’s coordination with the FBI, Homeland Security and other financial institutions to silence Occupy is another aspect of the criminal conspiracy of the economic elite. Those responsible for destroying the economic security of millions remain free and continue to force families out of their homes, implement policies that criminalize those driven into poverty and clearly have no limits to their own crimes against society.