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(en) US, UNDER ATTACK! Norfolk Food Not Bombs Fights City Harassment

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 1 Sep 2003 11:04:17 +0200 (CEST)


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Efforts by Norfolk City health officials to impede a weekly serving by the area's Food
Not Bombs collective have been unsuccessful as the group has continued to serve a free
meal to the community. Norfolk FNB recently posted an account to IMC describing
encounters with certain officials and issuing a call for guidance on what to do with city harassment.
Background on Health Dept. problems with Norfolk Food Not Bombs
Here's the delayed report on the Norfolk FNB feeding Monday:
Norfolk FNB's recent incarnation has been serving hot
vegetarian meals behind the Union Mission since early
January of this year without any problems and much support
from the local activist and homeless community. As some
of you may know we've recently come under the scrutiny
and repression from the Norfolk Health Department.

Two weeks ago was our first encounter with Douglas
Johnson of the NHD, who told us we'd have to shut down
and that "your hearts are in the right spot but..you gotta do
it right." One of the members in the group asked how we
can "do it right" and he said we'd have to get tables and get
the serving buckets off the ground and that we'd have to
have food handling cards.

The next feeding he was not so helpful. He waited for us to
start bringing the food and sprung to action. Screeching to a
stop in front of the serving (thereby blocking a busy street
during rush hour) he told us he was shutting us down. We
had a line of about 25 people waiting already. We told him
that the buckets were off the ground and that we hadn't had
a chance to get the cards because of work and school
limitations but that we were getting them ASAP.

This was not enough for Mr Johnson. He then stated we'd
also have to get over $70 worth of permits such as a
"mobile canteen permit." We pointed out that we're a
volunteer-run organization with very limited resources. He
replied that he had "to take care of these people" so we
couldn't help but point it out to him that his department
obviously was not doing a good job since so many are
hungry, and out in the streets.

"Well take it up with city council!" This is where the folks
waiting to eat became even more vocal, stating that they've
tryed that but nothing happened, and "they don't care about
people like us." After a heated exchange back and forth ,
our side stressing the need for community actions and that
because of all these permits lisences, and fees they make it
so ordinary people sticking together to help each other is a
reason for a crackdown.

This for something not much different than a picnic in the
park or family reunion. After he left we told everyone we
would do the serving at a small park two blocks away. We
served without any problems, and decided to move the
feeding to that location from now on.

Now this week we expected Mr. Johnson to be present so
we figured we'd make sandwiches with veggie deli meats,
lettuce, tomatoes, organic chips and individual servings of
pastries- a real picnic-like serving. As we unloaded and
started setting up one of us saw him in his van behind a
tractor trailer. He soon drove away without approaching us,
though we were soon approached by a police officer who
said he got a call.

Luna was present with her camcorder and recorded the
event and spoke to the officer and explained what we were
doing. He asked if we needed a permit and Luna told him
one of us went to the health department and the woman
there said we fell into no category they had. Which was
true though the woman also said we'd have to also get a
"tracking license" so they could "track" us.

"So yall are just feeding people...for free?! I have no problem
with that" and so ended our encounter. The serving went
well and we're hopeful it will continue this way. The thing
about this that clearly points to discrimination because of
the political nature of the group is that upon speaking to
another group that has a free food program has only to have
food handler cards, a certified kitchen & thermometres to
maintain foods at proper temps, and even though all these
things will be a struggle to get on our limited budget it
doesn't compare to all the licenses and permits they told us
we are "required" to have.

So this is the situation we're faced with here in Norfolk.
Any input would be appreciated. Please contact our list
through the main FNB page and find Hampton Roads FNB.
Or contact me and I'll forward the message to the list.

In solidarity, JP (Norfolk FNB)

uniteresistreclaim@yahoo.com


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