Atlanta police officers punished citizens for doing the good deed of feeding homeless people during Thanksgiving week by citing them for not first applying for and obtaining permits from the government.
“I mean, outrageous, right? Of all the things to be punished for, giving free food to people who are hungry?” Marlon Kautz, an activist for Food Not Bombs, told WSB-TV after receiving a ticket.
Kautz and fellow activist Adele Maclean say instead of being praised for helping Atlanta’s homeless, they’re getting punished for it.
“This is a ticket for apparently a food service violation,” Maclean said during an interview on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
“We did the same thing that we’ve done for the past eight years: come down on a Sunday and serve a free meal to the homeless. But now it seems they’ve decided that you need a permit to serve the homeless, which is not true.”
“This is a food service violation, as if I were trying to sell food,” Maclean explained.
“They want to make downtown as inhospitable for the homeless as possible in hopes that if they can make it uncomfortable enough, they can force homeless people do go elsewhere.”
Kautz and Maclean have given food to the homeless every Sunday in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park for the past eight years, but have never heard of the permit requirement.
“It seems ridiculous to me that they would be spending their time and resources on stopping people from feeding the homeless,” Maclean said.
Atlanta cops began handing out flyers across the city in November warning those helping the homeless and hungry that a permit is required by the Fulton and DeKalb County boards of health.
The requirements aren’t new, but Atlanta police recently began strict enforcement because the city believes there are better ways to help the homeless like getting them into shelters.
They city also says the food distributions leave behind litter.
“Some people who come out and feed don’t clean up behind themselves, but the majority of those do clean up after themselves,” Marshall Rancifer, the founder and outreach director of the Justice for All Coalition, said.
Atlanta has a long history of punishing those without shelter, according the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In 2012, the city passed an aggressive anti-panhandling law, which punishes people soliciting for money in certain areas to jail or community service.
When Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996, Fulton County offered homeless people in the city one-way bus tickets to anywhere in the county with the stipulation they sign a statement promising not to return, according to The Seattle-Times.
Food Not Bombs activists say the citations won’t stop them from helping the hungry.
They plan on serving food outside the courthouse on the same day their citation hearings are scheduled.
“There is gonna be a meal serving outside the courthouse on that same day [of her hearing]. So I’m due in the court at 8 a.m. on the 14th, and we will be outside with a table with coffee and breakfast,” Maclean told The Intercept.
Watch video interviews with Atlanta police as well as activists from Food Not Bombs below.