food not bombs considers legal action against city of columbia, south carolina ordinance

by Tim Phillips

Food Not Bombs (FNB) has been serving food every Sunday for 12 years in Finlay Park in the city of Columbia, South Carolina. Yet tomorrow the city will apparently begin strictly enforcing an anti-homeless ordinance, which requires groups of 25 or more to obtain a permit and pay $120 before they can congregate in a public park. According to yesterday’s ThinkProgress article, stopping groups like FNB may be the point of enforcing the ordinance:

Since the Columbia City Council approved its exile plan in August, the city has been trying to herd its homeless people to a shelter on the outskirts of town and keep them away from downtown. … Columbia is part of an unfortunate trend of cities that have decided to crack down on charity groups that feed the homeless. Others that have passed or are considering ordinances include RaleighSt. LouisHarrisburg, and Los Angeles.

The local FNB group is considering legal action to prevent enforcement of the ordinance. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of FNB against the city of Flagstaff, Arizona. On October 4, a judge ruled that a 1988 anti-begging law was unconstitutional, and prohibited Flagstaff from “interfering with, targeting, citing, arresting, or prosecuting any person on the basis of their act(s) of peaceful begging in public areas.”