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Archive for the ‘grub -n- grab’ Category

The Quality of Whose Life? Final Part

Linocut by Art Hazelwood

 

Author’s Note: This is the final part in “The Quality of Whose Life?” series.  It focuses on the proliferation of “quality of life” laws across the country that make it a crime to sit or lie on a sidewalk, sleep outside, panhandle, and urinate or defecate in public even when suitable alternatives do not exist. “These repressive new laws trample on the constitutional rights of the poorest of the poor, but few people are even aware of the massive extent of these human rights violations because they are targeted at people who are almost invisible to mainstream society, explains Terry Messman, editor of Street Spirit. “The sheer inhumanity of these discriminatory laws would cause an immediate outcry if imposed on any other minority group in our society.”

“Quality of life” laws are usually part of the gentrification and redevelopment of downtowns and they are enforced in conjunction with the closure of public parks, banning of free food and clothing distribution, and banishment policies like trespass admonishments. To gain public support for passing these laws, officials promise homeless services that seldom get fully implemented.

Part 1 introduced the series, Part 2 examined the broken windows theory that these laws are based on, and Part 3 showed how these laws revive the disgraced vagrancy and banishment frameworks found in Ugly Laws, Sundown Towns, and Bum Blockades. This concluding part details what four West Coast cities have done and are doing to expose and challenge these unjust and discriminatory laws. Their efforts illustrate the dedicated work that is being done across the country. 

Congress and the President recently negotiated how intense this round of the bipartisan war on the middle class and poor will be. The situation will only get worse if Representative Paul Ryan and company get their way.  In this “winner-take-all” social order, “quality of life” laws establish control over shopping and business districts and push the collateral human damage out of sight.  It is a social order that masks and suppresses untenable inequality and cruelty.

The aggressiveness by which “quality of life” laws are enforced varies from place to place depending on local politics, police departments, and community opposition, but three things are consistent across the country. Downtown business alliances and Chambers of Commerce wield too much power over the process, urban public space is being privatized, and poor and homeless people are being stripped of basic citizenship rights.

Civic determination and private resources support “quality of life” restrictions. Chambers of Commerce, business alliances, city officials, and consulting groups meet to share expertise and troubleshoot obstacles.  For example, in 2007, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce sponsored representatives from the Business Alliance of Portland to come to San Francisco to present Portland’s “Street Access For Everyone” plan to city officials. The plan included a sit/lie ordinance. A few years later, Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced a sit/lie ordinance for San Francisco.

Resisting A Filthy, Rotten System

Local social justice groups like the ones we detail below are at the center of opposing what Dorothy Day once described as “our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”  They are forceful and often successful in confronting this trend in individual cities, but they also recognize that as long as this work remains isolated by geography and jurisdictional limitations, it is no match for the formidable wave of power and money that is sweeping the country.

In recognition of this reality, seven west coast groups came together to create a social justice alliance that has communities working jointly whenever and wherever needed.  In 2005, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness (the Coalition), Sisters Of The Road (Sisters), Street Roots, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Street Spirit, and Real Change became founding members of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP).  We recognized that only by joining forces, first regionally, then nationally, can we build a movement strong enough to counter the ongoing assaults on poor people and present injustices like the current “quality of life” laws.

For this final part, we look at the groups that make up WRAP.  We highlight the multifaceted civil rights work they are doing to educate, activate, and defend their communities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Berkeley. Strategies include research, public education, grassroots media, community organizing, advocacy, Community Watch, and citation defense. We conclude with the collaborative work that is being done as WRAP to challenge “quality of life” laws at the regional and national level.

Los Angeles – LA CAN

The Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles is the most heavily policed area outside of Baghdad. In the three years of the Skid Row Safer Cities Initiative, 36,000 “quality of life” citations were issued and more than 27,000 arrests were made in a 50-square block community of 15,000 people who are mostly poor African Americans. These mind boggling statistics give Skid Row the notorious distinction of being ground zero for “quality of life” policing.

Photo Credit: LA CAN

To educate, mobilize, and share the stories of their community, LA CAN produces the Community Connection newspaper, their rendition of the North Star and Liberator. Community Connection covers policing, housing, health, budgetary, and other community issues from the perspective of Skid Row residents.  At the end of 2010, LA CAN also released an influential human rights assessment on the negative impacts of the Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row. Most recently, they published Downtown Blues: A Skid Row Reader, which explores the struggles against displacement, misrepresentation, and civil rights violations in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. In February, a release party for the book at the University of Southern California featured contributors Robin D.G. Kelley, Cedric J. Robinson, Clyde Woods, Pete White, General Dogon, Gary Blasi, Damien Schnyder, LisaGay Hamilton, and Jonathan Gomez. Over 100 people attended the event in celebration of Black History Month.

LA CAN has fearlessly attempted to address the police’s “culture of abuse” through official channels at the local level.  They have used public records and declarations to illustrate illegal actions, public testimony to the Public Safety Committee and City Council, and, with the help of the ACLU and civil rights attorney Carol Sobel, lodged a complaint in federal court that found LAPD — by its own admission — guilty of illegal stops and seizures in Skid Row. Since most attempts have been rebuffed, they submitted a color of law complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and are now in conversation with DOJ staff over the violations that need to be addressed.

In 2005, LA CAN launched a Community Watch program to reduce the harmful impacts of unaddressed state and private security violence. Teams of four LA CAN members patrol the neighborhood with clipboards and a video camera, monitor the police and Business Improvement District security guards known as “red” or “purple” shirts, and gather evidence when the civil rights of residents are violated. Their presence and documentation ensures fewer incidents of brutality and racial profiling. The Nation has recognized Community Watch as “One of the Top Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets.”

LA CAN also runs a legal clinic that provides education, services, and representation to help low-income tenants and homeless Skid Row residents get their housing needs met. In 2007, they launched a Citation Defense Program in response to the dramatic increase in “quality of life” citations (roughly 1,000 a month) issued under the Safer Cities Initiative.

In order to break the vicious cycle of poverty, incarceration, and disenfranchisement in Skid Row, LA CAN teamed up with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Fulbright and Jaworski, LLP, and other law firms working pro bono to defend Skid Row residents.  Of the 700 tickets handled by the clinic in 2009, 90% were issued for crosswalk violations like jaywalking.  Among the 700 tickets from 2009 that have been resolved to date, 86% had the charges and/or all penalties dismissed and an additional 10% had the community service penalty significantly reduced. Amongst those who reported their disability status on intake forms for the tickets, 60% had a disability.

Through the legal clinic, organizers were also able to identify a resurgence of illegal property confiscation by LAPD from homeless residents.  Again with pro bono legal support, residents claimed initial victory when a Temporary Restraining Order was issued on April 22, 2011 to prevent LAPD and the City’s Public Works Department from seizing or destroying personal property without following proper procedures.

General Dogon, a LA CAN organizer and Skid Row resident, summed up the paradox of punishing the poor this way, “How do you criminalize the blind for being blind or the lame for being lame? If a man don’t have no where to go, he don’t have a job, and the city don’t have nothing to offer him, you can’t criminalize the man for that and this is what they’re doing. The cold part about that is, on this street right here, Main Street, they were allowing the yuppies to sit on the sidewalk. That’s the new in-crowd, and the city is supporting them. They’re the ones getting everything.”

San Francisco – The Coalition

San Francisco suffers similar harassment.  Since the mid-1990s, San Francisco police have issued well over 100,000 citations for minor offenses that target homeless people on the streets.  While these citations do not allow incarceration, the failure to pay the fine is a misdemeanor. Since most homeless people cannot afford to pay the fines, warrants are issued for their arrest.  The end result is that up to 25% of the people in the San Francisco County Jail are homeless.

Outstanding bench warrants for these misdemeanors can also block access to housing and other services needed to exit homelessness. To provide some defense for its community, the Coalition initiated the Citation Defense Program in 1995. Volunteer outreach workers collect citation information and narratives, which they give to pro bono attorneys who provide representation in court. Over the past several years, the Citation Defense Program represented roughly a quarter of all “quality of life” citations issued in San Francisco. The attorneys in these cases have a 97% success rate for getting cases either discharged, dismissed, or fines stayed in guilty findings. LA CAN and Berkeley’s Citation Defense Programs were modeled on the Coalition’s.

In addition to outreach and citation defense, the Coalition has documented police and other government employee harassment and court inequalities to better protect homeless people from injustice and uses its newspaper, Street Sheet, to educate and mobilize the community against anti-homeless measures.  It also used video documentation to end a Department of Public Works program called “Operation Scrubdown” in 2008. Operation Scrubdown sent police-escorted water trucks through the Tenderloin, a neighborhood where homeless people sleep on the sidewalks.  Every morning before dawn, the trucks power blasted the sidewalks and hosed down sleepers with water and a cleaning agent that city officials identified only as “lemon.”  The video documentation brought media attention to this inhumane practice, which led to the program’s termination.

In 2009, the City of San Francisco opened a new Community Justice Center (CJC) in the Tenderloin neighborhood, against the wishes of the electorate. It targeted homeless people, half of whom were charged with no crime other than sleeping outside. Because the City and the courts claimed that they could not provide documentation of the cases heard at CJC, the Coalition attended court almost daily for three months and collected every court calendar that was produced in order to document the injustices occurring.  Although the Coalition was unsuccessful at closing down CJC, the court began to document its work and move away from a homeless focus toward more serious crimes.

In 2010, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors considered a sit/lie law to make sitting or lying down on the sidewalk a criminal act. The Coalition produced reports on the effects of similar laws on small business in other cities, the impact on real crime in other cities, the constitutionality of the law, racially unequal enforcement of similar laws, and the impacts of criminalization on homeless people’s daily lives and on their chances of housing access. This documentation and reporting, in combination with meeting with public officials, public actions, and strong community organizing, led to the Board ultimately deciding to oppose the law.

The law then barely passed in the November election after a $400,000 media campaign that was aired during the San Francisco Giants World Series and financed by individuals from Charles Schwab, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America. However, with less than $10,000, the Coalition and a newly formed group, Sidewalks Are For People Coalition,  reduced support by 16% from just nine months earlier.

Photo Credit: Sidewalks Are For People Campaign

Since then, Coalition civil rights organizer Bob Offer-Westort writes, “the Coalition on Homelessness has begun developing documentation and know-your-rights trainings for members of our community who are cited or threatened with citation.  Simultaneously, attorneys from the ACLU and Disability Rights Advocates, as well as independent attorneys, have begun work developing legal strategies to challenge what we believe to be an unconstitutional law. Through coordinated documentation, litigation, and through public pressure on our legislators, on a new mayoral administration, on the media, and on the consciences of fellow San Franciscans, we know ultimately we will win.”

Portland, Oregon – Sisters and Street Roots

In Portland, Sisters Of The Road (Sisters) and Street Roots have been at the forefront of resistance to “quality of life” measures, including a camping ban and sit/lie ordinance. In 2003, Sisters and Street Roots launched the Right to Sleep Campaign, urging City Hall to look at alternatives to criminalization measures that target individuals living on the streets. In their newspaper, Street Roots highlighted the civil rights issues faced by people experiencing homelessness through in-depth reporting on private security in downtown Portland and how it relates to the criminalization of homelessness. Over the years, the newspaper reported on a number of criminalization efforts, including alternatives to the camping, sit-lie, and Drug Free Zones. Due to community pressure and legal challenges, the sit/lie ordinance was twice struck down as unconstitutional in 2004 and 2009.

 

Photo Credit: Michael Lloyd/Oregonian

In 2010, the city proposed another version of the sit-lie law called the Sidewalk Management Ordinance. In response, Sisters organized an action in celebration of sidewalks being for everyone that was attended by over 200 unhoused and housed allies who then marched to City Hall to testify against the measure.  Sisters exposed the classism and bias of the new ordinance in a public statement they used in their media work, outreach to the community, and in City Council hearings.

Sisters also gave a presentation to the city’s Human Rights Commission on the history of the two previous sit/lie ordinances, how it had been used against homeless people, and how the Council was manipulating the issue to make the new ordinance seem like it was about mobility rights for “differently-abled” people.  They specifically objected to the way the ordinance used the Americans with Disabilities Act. Homeless people were targeted for blocking sidewalk access for people with disabilities even though the Portland Housing Bureau recently found that 47% of homeless people had a high risk of mortality caused by untreated disabilities.

A week after the presentation, the Human Rights Commission took a public stand against the ordinance. At the next City Council hearing on the ordinance, three Commissioners testified that it violated human rights and the City Council should vote no on it.

Despite these efforts the ordinance passed. Sisters immediately switched gears and launched a “know-your-rights” campaign. They did street outreach that included handing out 2,000 flyers to educate Portlanders on their rights under the law and invited them to organize with them to oppose the ordinance. Sisters’ organizer Chani Geigle-Teller notes, “Largely because of this organizing on the streets, conversation by conversation, our weekly Civil Rights Workgroup consistently has over 12 volunteers who come in throughout the week to help us carry out this work!”

Berkeley – BOSS

Berkeley, another “liberal” city, is now considering its own no-sitting ban to go along with a no-lie ordinance passed in 2007 under Mayor Bates’ Public Commons for Everyone Initiative.  Since the 1990s, there have been multiple attempts by merchant associations such as the Downtown Berkeley Association and Downtown Berkeley Business Improvement District, the Mayor’s office, and City Council to clear out homeless people from People’s Park and the shopping districts along Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues.

Like anti-homeless measures in other cities, the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative promised a mixture of services and policing. Largely due to pressure from groups like BOSS, East Bay Community Law Center, and Homeless Action Center, the city made a little progress on outreach, Social Security Income advocacy, extension of public bathroom hours, treatment services, and addressing harassment complaints against the Berkeley HOST Program (a private ambassador program paid by the city to patrol the downtown area).  But it has fallen woefully short on providing housing and other services that were promised.

Photo Credit: Janny Castillo, BOSS

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Association are now pushing to ban sitting on the sidewalk. The Chamber of Commerce says the ban is necessary to curtail negative behavior and scary pets that are frightening people away from the downtown area. Advocates argue that there are laws already in place to address these issues and the new ban will target homeless people. Like the new sit/lie law in San Francisco, Berkeley’s latest effort directly targets homeless youth. To assert any homeless person’s right to exist in public space, BOSS and allies organized a “sit down for justice” action last month. Michael Diehl, a long-time community activist led a sit-in and demonstration that drew local news and passersby. UC Berkeley students from the Suitcase Clinic and other student groups joined the sit-in. Later that evening, the group marched to a Berkeley City Council meeting to speak out against the sit ordinance and its likely negative impact on the homeless population.

To focus public attention on this growing trend of discriminatory laws and reclaim public commons in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Portland, WRAP, the Coalition, BOSS, Sisters, Right to Survive, and other allies coordinated a “Sidewalks Are For People Day” on May 22, 2011. This three-city action is a small example of the type of collaboration and solidarity that is needed to overcome the civil and human rights issues raised in this series.

As shown by the work described above, local civil rights efforts have been effective at curtailing the level of criminalization in individual neighborhoods and cities.  They have led to many successful actions and put pressure on mayors, police chiefs, local human rights commissions, and even the DOJ, to begin responding to these widespread abuses. Important victories have been won, but they have been separated by geographical boundaries.   They need to be joined and that is the mission of WRAP.

Coming Together For A More Inclusive Quality of Life

WRAP is creating an organizing model that builds strategic relationships across local boundaries and unites community organizers, poverty and civil rights activists, students, the faith community, public defenders and progressive lawyers in the civil rights struggle.

In our short history, we have organized a regional “House Keys not Handcuffs” action in San Francisco that brought together over 1,000 people from up and down the West Coast to demand the federal government begin addressing our civil rights and housing issues.  We are now organizing a Community Congress for August that will bring together our member organizations and hundreds of grassroots leaders from their communities. It will include know-your-rights, citation defense, and Community Watch trainings, as well as strategic planning on how we can combat discriminatory “quality of life” laws, enforcement, prosecution, and homeless courts on a regional level.

WRAP has also documented the impact of “quality of life” policing on over 300 self-identified homeless and mentally ill people in six cities.  Our research found that nearly 80% of the people surveyed had been stopped, arrested, or cited for “quality of life” offenses, 60% were harassed by Business Improvement District private security, and 29% had lost their housing or were discharged from a program due to incarceration. This coming June, we will use this research on a criminalization panel and Congressional briefing that are part of the National Center on Homelessness and Poverty’s Forum on the Right to Housing in Washington, DC.

We are in the beginning stages of building a movement.  The recession, jobless recovery, and gridlock in Washington, DC lay bare the bankruptcy of the current system. Never has the need and imperative been more critical to defend the due process and civil rights of those being criminalized as more of our neighbors are forced onto the streets.  But in the end “defense” is not enough. We must also assert a vision for the future that reflects our humanity and interconnection. We all need a safe place to call home, freedom from fear and want, nutritious food and health care to sustain our bodies, education and culture to expand our minds, and dignified work.

Throughout the many civil rights struggles in our nation’s past, communities have bound together to fight for a more inclusive democracy. The abolitionist, women’s rights, labor, civil rights, disability rights, and environmental movement have all shown that change happens on a large scale only when pockets of resistance create a network of support and solidarity. The collective resistance forming to the present injustice of “quality of life” laws is no different.

Will you join in this movement for a better quality of life for everyone?

Special thanks to Marlene Griffith, Casey Gallagher, Becky Dennison, Chani Geigle-Teller, Israel Bayer, Bob Offer-Westort, Janny Castillo, and Michael Diehl for their contributions to this article.

http://wraphome.org/pages/?p=1218&option=com_wordpress&Itemid=119

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The “soup wars” continue… If you don’t buy it, if you don’t sell it- you’re a criminal. And not everybody who eats free food is homeless. The State just wants to make sure people who are really hungry and don’t have money, can’t eat.

In PEOPLE PROJECT, we say “This ain’t charity, it’s survival!” We know that the only way we’ll all make it is through SHARING. Read about Grub-n-Grab‘s and PEOPLE PROJECT’s Good Morning Neighbors Breakfast Program.

More about Grub-n-Grab’s:

https://peopleproject.wordpress.com/2009/01/10/236/

More about Good Morning Neighbors Breakfast Program:

humboldt-grassroots-1 5

More about Food Not Bombs:

THE STORY OF FOOD NOT BOMBS

or Read/Download:

The Story of Food Not Bombs

Here’s a small handout about Food Not Bombs, with a song on the 2nd side:


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These are 3 accounts from the January 6, 2008 Grub-n-Grab.

News from Wabash and UNion (EKA)

Grub and Grab, January 6 2009
Eureka,CA

A Grub and Grab is the creation of our imaginations, where we practice what we preach and live our dreams of community. Without any financial burdens, we reclaim a neighborhood space where we can allow for relationships outside of the state and capital regulations. Simply, it is a place where we share the abundance of our society as well as our individual aspirations. In the heart of this winter season, we bring hot food, drinks and warm clothing for all who have been weathered by the storms. Under large tarps we put up dry tables of countless goods that belong in the hands of those who need it. We know that in the downfall of their economy, we are left to struggle for all necessities. The GNG is one way that we stand together and provide for ourselves. This is not charity, this is beyond solidarity. This is not a one time deal, but an ongoing practice of our values. GNGs have been going on since the summer of ´07. This last GNG has turned out to tell the story of many elements to our situation of crisis. The story of this event will help to clarify our purpose to ourselves and the greater Eureka of what are our intentions

Because the GNG was scheduled for the 24th of December, it must have been perceived as a christmas happening, although it was not specifically that.

The Day

We set up at eight o’clock with hot food and and a warm crowd. There was a sense of accomplishment amongst the crew. Pleasantly, through word of mouth there was about 10 of us setting up, making it easy to set up and unload. Also, we were fresh faces to one another, allowing for making new relationships and connections. Through persistent organizing we pulled a crew together ofof strangers ready to work together at 7 in the morning outside in the rain without compen$ation. But – We were there! We set up at this building that barely looked like a place of worship, it was an old run down church. The church at Wabash and Union is an example of capitalist and bureaucratic process that have lead to neglect and waste. The building stands with broken windows and boarded up doors hardly resembling a church at all. Now it stands with a new story.

People came down Wabash by car, bike and foot to see what was going on. We flew through coffee and potatoes. As the rain came down, people came up to get dry coats. This is very practical – no? We shared conversation with old friends and new acquaintances that came by. There was joy in the air despite the water clouds above. People were pleasant and respectful, not following rules or judicial law, but our own common sense. The children reflected this, happy faces and giggles, there was kid clothes and even toys. Some came for the coffee, and some came to say hi. Some came with carts, and some came with minivans. We were grateful, and our smiles showed it. Aside from th chit chat, we also screened movies with a portable TV. It was place to hang out – and thats what we did, content under the protection of tarps.

While people trickled in and out of the space, some of us went to pass out fliers at Henderson Center. Our fliers were received well except for a group of employees who suggested we leave before security came to throw us out. This seemed strange considering our good intentions, but not surprising policy for a corporation. Upon our return, the PIGZ were at the site serving orders to move from our location prematurely. We had intended to be there another 3 hours. Against our will, we packed our things and hung our tails between our legs, like the dogs they treat us like. I was not ready to leave. I was not ready to be arrested. We packed up three truck loads, and gave thanks for the success we did have.
How come our day of giving was not allowed and the december 24 give away was hailed as a miracle? the ongoing contradictions of the state and property owners is not new to me but still just as outraging!
—————————————————————–

NO HOAX! But a miracle is still a miracle!

The spirit of giving and community empowerment lives on- even sprouts an unexpected branch. What was recently dubbed an internet hoax and cruel prank was actually a very simple slip up. The December 24th Grub-n-Grab, which was called off due to extenuating circumstances around resources and weather, was to be the 7th such event organized and carried out in recent years by PEOPLE PROJECT. It was our hope that as the Craigslist ad had only been posted for a few hours between 12 and 7 am, the risk of anyone showing up was minimal. That it caused anyone inconvenience is regrettable, and we at PEOPLE PROJECT apologize for the miscommunication. That this mishap should generate so positive an experience as to be called a miracle, was an inspiring surprise and we wish we had been privy to the organizing that ensued after we pulled the posting.

The Grub-n-Grab is no joke. We have hosted 7 such events in this area over the past 2 years. It all started when People Project members happened upon several truckloads of goods a local church was needing to get rid of. The high spirits that ensued from this first give-away led into conversation about what had made the event unique and special and why it felt so different from the other “institutional” charities we have all experienced in one way or another.
Inspired to affect compassion, sharing, empowerment, and community cooperation; and eager to re-imagine what community could look like, and feel like, PEOPLE PROJECT members carried the dream into action. It was in the spirit of this tradition, that on the 6th of January we rolled up our sleeves to host the event which had not been able to happen on the 24th. Only a little bit sheepish from the spin-off of our mistake and the title of “evil Grinch”, we set up our canopy and tarps and put on a great event. There was hot food, live music, educational videos, children playing, and lots of free stuff picked out. As was so beautifully illustrated in the Miracle on Wabash story, those moved to help were not necessarily coming from a place of affluence and privilege, and the real show of wealth came from the spirit of sharing.
Such is the case consistently in our organizing, where many among us are houseless, and where in working together to create a space where humanity and care are held in priority over material success and profit, the result is the kind of empowerment and community uplift bestowed by the spirit of sharing itself. We hope to join forces with those who rose to the occasion on X-mas day to ensure that this wonderful occurrence does not get buried in the past as a one-time thing. Past experience confines us to the unfortunate expectation that should the “miracle workers” endeavor to act on a continuing grass-roots basis, in collaboration or otherwise, they will be met with many of the frustrations, obstacles and harassment we have and continue to struggle with. However, of course always optimistic, we pray that in this case things may be different.

On Tuesday afternoon, some of the most significant obstacles standing in the way of such ongoing community self-determination were made clear. A property manager, more concerned with what he stands to lose than what he has to give, and a police force, obligated to enforce policy based in social anxiety rather than optimism and hope, put an early end to Tuesday’s Grub-n-Grab. The officers dealt fairly with us and we in turn, though disappointed, complied in the prompt breakdown of the event. Community members scrambled for last minute finds and bites of food as we packed.

The take home message would seem to be that an isolated instance of spontaneous humanity is permissible, but that the ongoing work of lifting each other into a stance of dignity cannot be allowed. Whether this condition stems from class prejudice or from the general cultural anxiety around disparity and issues of social justice, or any number of other possible reasons, it is difficult to say. It may be that this treatment stems from the belief that if our houseless community members are treated with respect, a larger population of dispossessed people will be attracted. Meanwhile, frustration and anger mounts for those of us faced daily with the deterioration of health, dignity, and life of people being pushed into extremes of poverty by a system unwilling to address its problems and which penalizes those who most need help and protection. We would hope that the colossal adversary of poverty and systemic blindness in our communities would be villain enough to rally ongoing response. But if it takes a fictitious evil Grinch to rally folks from the couch cushions, we will gladly show up in costume.

Travis Lathrop,
Peoples Project
————————————

A participant from GRUBNGRAB explains events and feelings (Eureka)

I am excited to have been involved with my first Grub n´ Grab; an ongoing struggle to share with people our intent and compassion. The GNG practices mutual aid with creativity and is acting as a catalyst by pushing for a market-less way to distribute within a very market dependent culture. The GNG allows people to become peers amongst each other; diminishing the ideaś of class, salary, and capital. Autonomy and dignity share this special space with the proles and the elite, while both browse freely amongst the excesses of yesteryear’s forgotten product.
There is another definite symptom of creating such a space. The folks who involve themselves in the event, whether it be browsing for clothing, eating some ´taters or setting up tarps and tables, seem to adopt a sense of respect and responsibility for that space. On Tuesday we turned a beaten up and neglected church into a safe haven from the rain and in some cases the hunger. People who came away from that came away with a sense of respect for the location, us, and other participants.
When the Realtor Ron Queen, arrived his demeanor and attitude were authoritative. Immediatly he proved this to be true by demanding to know who was in charge of the event. Having understood that this space was shared by everyone and we all participated in setting it up and maintaining it, I answered him by acknowledging that fact. After i took a look at who he was barking at, i realized he had been speaking towards(at not to) KRSTNA and CRTNY. As if to let people know who was running the show ´now´. During our confrontation with him we repeatedly tried to talk outside the sphere of capital, and property. He was intent on remaining decided in his favor and ignored our attempts to express our discontent with having to leave after an already successful day of sharing. He informed us that the police were arriving shortly and that we were to break down our tarps and tables, food and clothing, banners and fliers, immediatly. Upon arrival the PIGZ tried to make sense of the situation. Doing what they know best to do, they confirmed the Realtorś claims, identity, and ´supposed´ right to eject us from the property by giving us an hour to break down. Ron Queen, during all this time, stood on the side of the law. Shoulder to shoulder with the two officers he had ordered to remove us. After their departure more folks showed up to ask about the event. Many took clothing as fast as we could break down. As we finished up we realized the hour had passed and still no intervention.
Grub N’Grab is a space that means i can detach myself from capitalism and engage in true community solidarity. Reaching out to those who need us just as much as we need each other. We can attach ourselves to something that is more real and more tangible than the state would ever believe. We have made a collective effort to escape from that which has confined us, and that to me means everything. It means Survival.

p.s. Final analysis: Smash Capitalism; Off Da Pigz, Everything for everyone!

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Since the protest encampment April 21st through to May 2, 2007, which emerged to expose violations of houseless peoples’ rights and to generate support for a campground, PEOPLE PROJECT has continued Tuesday night meetings and hosted a number of other dignified spaces.

*In the month of June, PEOPLE PROJECT hosted two Grub-n-Grab‘s in Eureka, CA. A grub-n-grab is a sharing space, open to all, where everything is ‘free’! All day, folks are welcome to come and eat and make theirs some clothes, jackets, kitchen stuff, sleeping bags, tarps, etc. The first Grub-n-Grab featured lots of baby clothes; the second, lots of outdoor sleeping gear. People Project creates and encourages spaces and activities where we can re-imagine and experience what community looks and feels like –where we value dignity, health, and respect for all, with value having nothing to do with money….

* Also in June, a few active PEOPLE PROJECT folks attended and camped (and volunteered) at this year’s North Coast Veterans’ Stand Down. PEOPLE PROJECT set up a table next to Veterans for Peace (who were tabling regarding Depleted Uranium) and gave out silk-screened shirts and patches, and fliers inviting vets to meetings/events. As the Arcata Reporter puts so succinctly:

“…There was a lot of free services, food and music for veterans and their families. Army surplus gear was given away to homeless vets. According to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, one out of every three homeless adult males is a veteran and on any given night, more than 500,000 veterans are homeless. ”

*PEOPLE PROJECT has been popping up on street corners with Kiosks. We set up the kiosks to inspire and to share, through various media mediums (video, audio, photos, conversation), information and perspectives about PEOPLE PROJECT direct actions- from participants and supporters. At the kiosks, we also share food, coffee, tea, and PEOPLE PROJECT shirts, patches, and CD’s. Recently, folks visiting the kiosk watched encampment footage and participant interviews on a t.v. powered by a bicycle generator!

oyster-fest-day.jpg*PEOPLE PROJECT, in coordination with folks from the Art As Resistance collective, Accion Zapatista de Humboldt, and others used roving guerrilla theatre, signs, flyers, and loud voices to get the attention of hundreds of attendees at Arcata’s yearly oyster fest. During the week leading up to the ‘fest’, PEOPLE PROJECT discussed the city’s “preparation” for such business-run events, which can include tactics to get houseless people out of town or out of sight. That same week, 100’s of ‘undocumented’ people (in Humboldt) were taken away from their families and friends in massive deportation sweeps. These sweeps went on all over the U.S. We will not be silent when any of us are targeted, detained, taken away.

*PEOPLE PROJECT Direct Action Documentation Project: People Project is working to collectively document perspectives of participants and supporters of the People Project encampment (of April 21st to May 2nd 2007). This perspective is being focused on to reveal and distribute the ideas of those who engage in direct action through creating audio and video recorded interviews, a video documentary, a timeline of struggle, pamphlets, and zine(s).

The purpose of a video or any other type of interpretation will be to represent the different relations of force that People Project direct actions call attention to through the voices of participants and supporters. Part of this will be to expose the history of discriminatory actions taken against houseless people in Humboldt County generally and specifically in Arcata…. read more about the documentation project

 

PEOPLE PROJECT will continue to convene meetings and direct action spaces. Folks willing to help prepare or participate in other beneficial ways are wholeheartedly welcomed!

PEOPLE PROJECT Contact:

  1. This blog
  2. Email: peopleproject@riseup.net
  3. Page or leave message: 707-618-9185

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