Protesters defy food-sharing ban in El Cajon

"If hep A was as big a concern as they're saying it is, they'd have bathrooms."

An act of civil disobedience ended peacefully on Sunday afternoon (November 19th), as dozens from across the county gathered at Wells Park in El Cajon to offer food to the homeless in defiance of a new city law prohibiting the practice.

Shane Parmely and Mark Lane

Shane Parmely and Mark Lane

Citing the year-long hepatitis A outbreak in nearby San Diego and subsequent emergency declaration countywide, the City of El Cajon in late October adopted an emergency measure banning the sharing of food with homeless individuals at city parks. The council, in enacting the ban, clarified that the sharing of food among housed individuals attending parties or picnics is not covered under the ordinance.

Outrage quickly spread throughout the activist community, and calls to openly defy the law were taken up by a hastily arranged coalition calling itself Break the Ban.

"The Facebook response was huge, and it actually put us in touch with some homeless advocates who have been coming out here and doing this work already," said Shane Parmely, a middle-school teacher who traveled from Bonita to participate as a co-organizer. "When Mark posted news about the ban passing and asked 'Who's ready to get arrested?' immediately my response was, 'I'm in!' I have a sister-in-law with mental illness. She was at one point homeless in El Cajon before going missing for a while, when she finally calls [to rejoin the family] she had lost, like, 80 pounds due to malnutrition."

Her sister-in-law has since gone missing again.

"I hope someone's out there sharing food with her."

"If hep A was as big a concern as they're saying it is, they'd have bathrooms," insisted Mark Lane, another of the event's organizers. "It's easier to dehumanize them, criminalize them, make them throw-away people."

Lane pointed to a shuttered bathroom facility in the middle of the park that he says has been closed for months due to plumbing problems. Outside, two portable toilets sit next to a pair of drinking fountains, where soap has been placed to press them into service as makeshift sinks.

"City councilmember Ben Kalasho went on TV the other day and pretty much said 'If you care about these people so much, take them home with you and let them use your showers,'" Lane continued. "He's not addressing his duty as a councilperson to provide services for these people in his city.

"What if I passed a food-sharing ban that said you could no longer share food in public places with the LGBT community, but everyone else is okay? Have a party? Because they've dehumanized these people, they think it's okay to do exactly the same thing."

"They say that hep A is a problem, that people are defecating on the ground and the disease is everywhere, and because of that they don't want people who are homeless to be fed," Parmely added. "But everyone else can continue having their parties here, like it's safe."

About three dozen volunteers, more of whom had earlier gathered at Border X Brewing in Barrio Logan to prepare meals (publicly distributed food must be prepared in a commercial kitchen, which the brewery's restaurant donated for the morning), were on hand to distribute as many as 80 meals, along with bottled water, juice, and toiletries to any takers. Despite a high police presence — Madison Avenue fronting the park was closed and the parking lot was occupied by horse trailers used by participants in the annual Mother Goose Parade going on nearby — an hour into the food distribution, officers had yet to make contact with the group.

Other groups have vowed to continue Break the Ban's work — another El Cajon public food-sharing event is in the works for next Saturday, November 25.

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They should have been quickly arrested. These people are well-meaning, but are only adding to the burden of human misery. Not only are they enabling transients to continue to live their transient lifestyle; but they're inviting in filth, disease, crime, aggressive panhandling, and a raft of other problems.

We have signs in parks saying not to feed the wildlife, as they'll lose their ability to feed themselves and will become dependent upon people. But, for some reason, some people believe the same rule shouldn't hold with transients, and that it's a good idea to attract hordes of crazy and violent people into an area and give them an incentive to stay, light fires, urinate and defecate in public, etc.

You're right. They should have arrested all of us. It would have brought more attention to the fact that the city of El Cajon left horse crap all over the park from the Mother Goose parade, and chose to put up porta potties rather than pay to fix the pipes to the restroom facilities.

Yes, PLEASE arrest us. That is exactly what we want... We want the attention. We want to fight this unjust law in the courts, and that's not going to happen unless somebody challenges the law. Totally agree.

So the El Cajon cops looked the other way when they were passing out food parcels. This was right after the city government, i.e. city council, passed an ordinance to prohibit just that sort of activity. Whazzup with the PD? Not enough of them on duty to make a proper show of force (after all it was during the sanctified and historic parade) or some other reason? I'd guess it was to avoid embarrassment if they were arresting well-meaning folks during the iconic parade. Regardless of their motivations, if the council makes something a crime and the PD ignores it, someone has a big problem. I'd say the city manager (who works for that same council) had better tell the chief of police (who works for the city manager) to do his job and enforce the ordinance. Otherwise the council needs to repeal the ordinance and come up with a more politically acceptable way to deal with homelessness in their city.

I would give the cops a break on this one. The day that the do-gooders were feeding the worthless human trash was the same day of the Mother Goose Parade. The Mother Goose Parade is an all-hands-on-deck leaving only a few officers to patrol. On the other hand if these do-gooders feed next Sunday and the cops do nothing then you will be right.

Worthless human trash? What a heartless self-centered ass you are! What if you suddenly became out of a job and had nowhere to go and were out on the streets -- then we can all call you WORTHLESS HUMAN TRASH!!!

What country has the lowest homeless population? China. Do you want to guess why? Let your mind wonder, but they aborted babies... Human trash may sound offending, but if society can't help and they can't help themselves, what are they? They just commit petty crimes, make neighborhoods feel unsafe, they leave trash and feces, they raise the cost of retail because they steal shopping carts, they urinate in public spaces, they block public access sprawling all over the city sidewalks, they are ruining the new San Diego Central Library, they spread disease, and so..how much longer can these negative attributes denied, that they are indeed human trash.

Well, Donna, I am all for helping those who want help. The non-drug related mentally ill should be institutionalized. Those who want off drugs/alcohol should be provided help. A job fair should be held for the homeless who WANT to work. The rest are bums. Bums do not want to become productive members of society. They don't want to get off drugs/alcohol. They do not want to conform to societal norms. They deserve no help. If you make life easier for the bums it is called enabling. Would you give alcohol to an alcoholic? Would you give drugs to a druggie? If you feel that you want to help a bum take one home with you.

It would have looked bad to enforce the law that day because the city allowed the parking lot of Well Park to be used as a horse stable for the Mother Goose parade and they left horse crap all over the park. The horse owners don't have to even clean it up. The city did and so that meant the crap was left in the park for at least five hours, while this homeless event was going on, and after it was over.

The council's claim that the reason to stop feeding the homeless in parks because of possible fecal transfer becomes moot when the same government leaves horse poo everywhere without an issue.

I just spent the day with 55 people who have physical and or mental illnesses. I'm not inclined to think of them as human trash, and I wouldn't want any of them to go hungry just because someone else thinks they are trash.

Why hasn't the media mentioned that because the city used the parking lot of Wells Park as a horse stable, horses crapped all over the park and that crap was left there for at least five hours. While the council claimed that this law stems from a health and safety emergency, they refused to fix the pipes to the restroom at the park, and have no problem cleaning up tons of horse crap... but complain about feeding humans... what gives?


by aflunky

I have to say the irony is not lost on me that El Cajon doesn’t want homeless activists/advocates to feed the local homeless, yet El Cajon is where most of the refugees from the Middle-East are dispatched by refugee settlement organizations. These are people who get “hooked up” with an apartment, medical care, food stamps, free college (mostly at Cuyamaca College) and other perks. So importing, settling and paying for foreigners from nations who have been critical and unfriendly with U.S. policies, citizens of countries that kill and maim Americans on domestic and foreign soil... are treated so much better than those who were born in the U.S., probably were productive at one-time and paid income taxes, and a population that has a sizeable portion of veterans.

You really have to step back and ask yourself what this country has come to? The whole refugee phenomenon is dividing Europe. On a daily basis we learn of bombings,mass murder, slaughter, human trafficking, by the people of that region, yet we invite them here, coddle them, planting the seeds of our own destruction. Yet our own citizens must suffer humiliation, hunger and the elements while the Mercedes and Range Rovers of the refugees pull up to social services for their freebies.

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