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by Robert M. Myers
Wednesday, Sep. 25, 2002 at 5:43 AM
On September 24, 2002, at 5:30 p.m., Santa Monica City Hall, 1685 Main Street, join with civil rights and human rights organizations in protesting a proposed ordinance to make criminals out of private citizens who feed the hungry in Santa Monica.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (9/24/02)
Contact: Side by Side, a community partnership
Randy Walburger (310) 828 - 9328
SANTA MONICA HOMELESS GROUPS PROTEST CITY ACTION
SANTA MONICA --- A ban on the distribution of food to hungry people in parks and public spaces will be protested Tuesday night, starting with a press conference and free food distribution at 5:30 p.m., outside Santa Monica City Hall. The Santa Monica City Council will vote on the proposed ban later that evening.
Calling the demonstration "Brown Bag Justice" the protest will include speakers from various food distribution programs, human rights organizations and religious groups, who are the targets of the ban, and their legal representatives. Moira LaMountain, a volunteer with several of the food providers, labeled the City's proposed law as "outrageous. This law, if enacted, would outlaw virtually all-outdoor meal programs in Santa Monica. The affluent dine at outdoor cafes, but the poor will not be able to receive help in outdoor locations."
LaMountain pointed out that both housed and unhoused individuals come to the various food programs. "Many people with low wage jobs spend 50 to 75 percent of their income on housing. The need for food becomes life threatening at the end of every month. Many of the people we serve are not even eligible for the limited social service agency resources that provide indoor meals to only a small portion of the homeless population."
Nearly one in eight people in Los Angeles County live in poverty. "At a time when government resources are stretched to the max, the Santa Monica City Council is contemplating an action that will criminalize private charity and compassion," said LaMountain.
The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., has written to Mayor Michael Feinstein and the City Council to voice his opposition to the proposed ordinance. He said in his letter: "Homelessness and hunger are human rights issues. Whenever I travel abroad and speak out to protest human rights abuses in other countries, I am confronted with our own shortcomings, top among them our treatment of the chronically homeless. If one of the most fundamental aspects of human development is learning by example, what then are we teaching our children by denying food to those most in need?"
James Lafferty, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild/Los Angeles Chapter said, "Our lawyers will fight this law in the courts and on the streets. We intend to defy any measure to outlaw private efforts to feed the hungry. The City Council should devote its resources to fighting President Bush's war on civil liberties, rather than contributing to it."
Internationally renowned historian Howard Zinn urged the City Council not to pass the ordinance, stating "This is a human rights issue, in which the profits of merchants should not come before the feeding of people who are hungry. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which Eleanor Roosevelt played a crucial role, states in Article 25 that everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for health, food, clothing, housing. It would be a shame if the City of Santa Monica could not live up to this principle."
The Brown Bag Justice protest is sponsored by Making Change… a community and human rights newspaper based in Santa Monica, Side by Side, CHPHP (Children Helping Poor and Homeless People), Food Not Bombs/Santa Monica, Hand to Hand, HOPE (Helping Other People Eat) and the National Lawyers Guild/Los Angeles Chapter. Jennafer Yellowhorse, Editor of Making Change… feels that "Community-based organizations like Side by Side, a community partnership of housed and unhoused individuals working together for positive change to homelessness, is the solution. There is more than enough legislation on the books to protect the public from crime. Legislation preventing the public from helping the poor is just mean-spirited."
Santa Monica City Hall is located at 1685 Main Street. For further information on the Brown Bag Justice demonstration, contact Randy Walburger, Side by Side, a community partnership, (310) 828 - 9328.
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