activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: food not bombs

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2014 posts

NATO 3: On February 7, the jury in the NATO 3 trial acquitted the defendants of all the terrorism charges and the solicitation to commit arson charge. The jury found the defendants guilty of mob action, possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson, and possession of an incendiary device with the knowledge that another intended to commit arson. On April 25, Brian Jacob Church was sentenced to five years, Brent Betterly to six years, and Jared Chase to eight years. Church is now in a halfway house.

Debbie Vincent: Following the conviction of SHAC activist Debbie Vincent in March, she was sentenced to six years in prison in April.

Robert Birgeneau: After Haverford students planned to protest former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who Haverford College invited to speak at commencement, Birgeneau backed out in May. Condoleezza Rice, who Rutgers University invited to speak at commencement, also backed out this year after students and faculty organized a campaign citing her role in the Iraq war. International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, who Smith College invited to speak at commencement, backed out too after nearly 500 people signed an online petition.

Holly Nguyen and Maya Land: On September 8, Holly Nguyen and Maya Land, the two UC San Diego students who allegedly set fires to prevent a Starbucks from opening on campus, pled guilty to reckless endangerment. They were ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluations and spend 20 days in jail. They will also be on probation for 18 months and have to spend 30 days doing “public service.”

School of the Americas Watch vigil: Although Fort Benning officials and the Columbus police tried to shut down the 25th annual School of the Americas Watch Vigil in November, they backed down following a coordinated grassroots pressure campaign.

Food Not Bombs: After Ft. Lauderdale approved an ordinance outlawing most food sharings in public parks, people protested, tried to meet with city officialswere cited for giving out food, temporarily stopped eating, and crashed Ft. Lauderdale’s website. On December 2, the day after Anonymous crashed the city’s website, a judge in Florida issued a 30-day ban on enforcement of the ordinance.

Procter & Gamble protest: Initially charged with two felonies and facing up to nine and a half years in prison, most of the activists who protested against rainforest destruction at Procter & Gamble headquarters this past spring pled guilty to misdemeanor trespassing on December 12. They were sentenced to complete 80 hours of community service. (One of the activists accepted a previous pleas deal, and another, Tyler Wilkerson, passed away on October 6.)

November 2011 Occupy Cal lawsuit: On December 12, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers dismissed claims against several police officers and one UC Berkeley administrator in a lawsuit regarding excessive force during the November 2011 Occupy Cal protests. Claims against other officers and administrators, including former UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, will proceed.

No-Tav: On December 29, the additional charges recently brought against three No-TAV activists currently in custody were dropped. This court decision followed disruption of rail services last week in many parts of Italy after an arson attack, blamed on protesters, on Bologna’s Santa Viola station. Four other activists facing similar charges were recently convicted and sentenced to prison terms of three years and six months each.

Christopher Wahmhoff: After spending approximately 10 hours inside an Enbridge oil pipeline in June 2013, Christopher Wahmhoff was convicted on December 16 of trespassing and resisting police. On December 29, Wahmhoff was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay fines and costs of $908. Restitution has yet to be determined. According to one of the protesters outside the courthouse before Wahmhoff’s sentencing,

When the state convicts people who are protesting for the health of the community, … it’s betraying the community.

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fort lauderdale commissioners approve ordinance that restricts food not bombs

At a meeting that began Tuesday and ended at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of regulations regarding how food may be served in the downtown area. The ordinance will officially become law on October 31. According to yesterday’s Broward/Palm Beach New Times article,

The new ordinance deals primarily with how groups go about serving food to the homeless, such as rules on food handling, providing toilet facilities and hand-washing areas, and requirements on how and when the food should be served, particularly for groups that service the homeless outdoors and in parks. Homeless advocates say the restrictions are too cumbersome…

This is the fifth ordinance in the past six months that criminalizes homeless people or their allies in Fort Lauderdale. For example, commissioners recently passed an ordinance authorizing police to confiscate a homeless person’s possessions after a 24-hour notice, and keep them until the person pays a fee or proves that he or she can’t afford it. Food Not Bombs has invited anyone who disagrees with the ‘sharing ban’ to show up in costume on October 31 and openly feed homeless people.

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

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.”

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2013 posts

Natan Blanc: After petitions and demonstrations, Natan Blanc was released in June, after spending six months in jail for refusing to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces.

Food Not Bombs: Although state health officials in New Mexico threatened in June to seek a court order to stop Food Not Bombs from serving free meals without a permit, Keith McHenry reports that “the state never returned and the meals continue without incident.”

Uriel Alberto: After beginning a hunger strike in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Charlotte on July 4, to protest his deportation, Uriel Alberto was approved within two weeks for a one-year stay of removal.

California Prisoner Hunger Strike: Following legislators’ announcement that they would hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that led to another prisoner hunger strike in July, hunger strikers suspended the strike in September, 60 days after it began.

Washington Ballot Initiative: The GE labeling initiative in Washington, which would have required retail food products and seed stocks that had been genetically engineered to be labeled, was defeated by a small margin in November. Corporations spent $22 million, more than in any prior campaign in the state’s history, to defeat the initiative. Monsanto was the largest single contributor. According to a Grist blog post by Nathanael Johnson, the money made a difference, just like it did in a similar attempt to pass a labeling bill in California last year:

In each case the labeling bills started out with big leads. In each case those leads shrank as the food industry and agribusiness paid for massive amounts of advertising. The moral of the story seems to be that money really can change the outcome of elections.

Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff: On November 6, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff had their second pretrial conference. Lang accepted a plea deal and was released. Olliff attempted to accept a plea deal, but the judge rejected it; so he remains in Woodford County Jail. He was in court again today in front of a different judge.

Jeremy Hammond: On November 15, anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In response to the sentence, WikiLeaks released all of the remaining Stratfor files.

Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett: At a court hearing on December 9, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reduced the charges against Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett, dropping the more serious charges and reducing the remaining offenses to misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and unlawful assembly.

Kimberly Rivera: On December 12, Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera was released early for good behavior and performing extra work. She had been scheduled for release in early January 2014.

Jerry Koch: On December 20, attorneys for Jerry Koch filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge John Keenan to release the 24-year-old philosophy student, because Koch has shown he has no intention of cooperating with the grand jury to which he’s been subpoenaed.

Pussy Riot: On December 23, the two women from Pussy Riot nearing the end of their two-year prison terms were released under a new amnesty law. The law was also expected to bring about the release of many people arrested after an anti-government demonstration in May, and close the cases of the 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists arrested in the Arctic Sea in September while occupying an oil rig to call attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change. According to a December 19 New York Times editorial,

In pardoning these prisoners, Mr. Putin gave no indication that they may have been wrongfully tried and imprisoned, nor that more people will not be treated similarly in the future.

food not bombs wins first amendment lawsuit against city of flagstaff, arizona

Yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake overturned an Arizona state law that criminalized being “present in a public place to beg.” The Flagstaff Police Department and City Attorney had aggressively enforced the law, negatively impacting Food Not Bombs (FNB). For example, several FNB members had apparently been arrested for requesting donations from passersby. According to yesterday’s press release from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),

In 2008, the City of Flagstaff adopted a policy in cooperation with local businesses—called “Operation 40”—to remove panhandlers from downtown areas by jailing them early in the day. Flagstaff utilized the now-void statute, which equated panhandling with loitering, to justify the arrests. Between June 2012 and May 2013, 135 arrests were made by the Flagstaff Police Department under the law.

On June 25, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the City of Flagstaff on behalf of FNB and three people who had been arrested, threatened with arrest, or who feared being arrested for “loitering to beg.” Judge Wake ruled yesterday afternoon that the 1988 state law at issue was unconstitutional. He also 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.”

food not bombs files first amendment lawsuit against city of flagstaff, arizona

An Arizona state law makes it a crime to be “present in a public place to beg.” The Flagstaff Police Department and City Attorney have aggressively enforced this law. Such enforcement negatively impacts Food Not Bombs (FNB), according to a lawsuit the organization filed yesterday:

FNB members have become hesitant to participate in organizational activities and services due to the regular presence of police officers on the periphery of the feeding site and … the awareness that Flagstaff is arresting and prosecuting persons for asking for donations for food. FNB members who have experienced threats about and arrests for begging are particularly reluctant to enter into, and participate in activities in, areas with a Flagstaff Police department presence. As a result, FNB has experienced a loss of membership and a reduction in its capacity to serve the poor and hungry in Flagstaff.

Several FNB members have apparently been arrested for requesting donations from passersby. The American Civil Liberties Union represents FNB in the lawsuit, in addition to three people who have been arrested, threatened with arrest, or who fear being arrested for “loitering to beg.”

food not bombs co-founder cited by health officials for serving free meals without a permit

Keith McHenry helped start Food Not Bombs (FNB) in Massachusetts in 1980. He helped start the second chapter, in California, in 1988. In the early 1990s, dozens of FNB chapters throughout the U.S. regularly served free food in public. According to Chris Dixon’s introduction to Chris Crass’s new book, Towards Collective Liberation,

… FNB (then as now) functioned as a form of gateway activism for tens of thousands of mostly young people. Through FNB, countless activists have learned about economic inequality and the role of the state in preserving it, and have experienced their own power to take direct action and create alternative institutions.

How does the state preserve economic inequality? In New Mexico, state health officials have apparently threatened to seek a court order to stop McHenry from serving free meals without a permit. McHenry was issued a notice of violation last Saturday.

Though FNB hasn’t encountered many legal difficulties in Taos, New Mexico, McHenry has been jailed for his involvement in FNB chapters in San Francisco and Orlando. In response to this recent threat, he said he’ll continue serving free vegan meals every week, as he has around the country for 33 years.