Keith McHenry | Indy Week

Keith McHenry 
Member since Aug 26, 2013



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Re: “[Updated] Feeding the homeless in Raleigh barred by cops until Mayor and Council intervene.

Thanks for covering this important issue. I am very impressed by your reporting on the crisis at Moore Square over the right to share food with the hungry.

People providing meals with the hungry have been threatened with arrest, faced bans or restrictions in over 50 cities in the United States in the past few years. This summer Food Not Bombs volunteers have been told to stop in Boulder, Detroit, Portland and Seattle. Police made over 1,000 arrests in San Francisco starting on August 15, 1988 ending on June 27, 1997 in what was the first government campaign drive the hungry out of sight and silence the message of food not bombs.

This is a worrying trend with Raleigh becoming the newest city restricting the feeding of the poor. Over 50 cities in the United States have banned or limited the sharing of meals in public. This at a time when one in two Americans are struggling to survive and hunger is increasing. At the same time Congress is considering huge cuts in the food stamp program. Maybe even more alarming is the fact that there are a number of threats to agriculture which could increase the price of food. Climate change is contributing to droughts, floods and other extreme weather events that have reduced harvests. The increase use of genetically engineered Food may be the largest cause of hunger and an increase in food prices making it expensive to cultivate crops and weakening the health of plants. The commodification of seeds and the need for special chemicals to grow food has forced many to stop farming reducing output and encouraging speculation.

The city of San Francisco used a phony permit issue to stop our meals. A federal judge had to order the city to issue a permit and end a weekly change in requirements. Even after being issued tow permits the process was deleted after the judge left San Francisco and the arrests started again. Frustrated the police were ordered to beat us during the arrests. That also failed to slow our progress. Each arrest encouraged others to join our effort. People in other cities started new Food Not Bombs groups in protest. We were sharing meals every Monday to about 200 people when first arrested but after two years of on and off arrests we had so many volunteers and so much food we were sharing meals twice a day seven days a week. After ten years there were Food Not Bombs groups in over 500 cities and today after a number of other efforts to silence Food Not Bombs there are groups in over 1,000 cities active in every corner of the world.

I encourage everyone sharing food at Moore Square to defend their right to share food and ideas. If the right to help our neighbors should never be regulated by the government. This right should be defended even if it means facing arrest. I did two years in jail in San Francisco and 19 days in jail in Orlando defending this important right. Restrictions on helping one another could lead to the authorities believing that they have the right to control the sharing of clothes or the right to provide help to motorists with a flat tire. This is really going to far and is not only a violation of our right to free speech and assembly it is an assault on compassion and acts of kindness.

Learn more about Food Not Bombs at

4 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Keith McHenry on 08/26/2013 at 2:25 PM

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