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The Birmingham Food Not Bombs Letter to the Alabama ACLU

I am jefff from birmingham food not bombs. Jack Zylman gave me your email address. I hope you are actually with the ACLU. Thanks for your time and your work in fighting for civil liberties.

Our group of four to five regulars, and some who come and go, has been feeding people at Five Points South in Birmingham every Sunday at 2:40 PM roughly for just over a year now. We don't want to work with the coalition that does a similar function in town in other places where people mostly have to pray to eat or get a case worker or whatever. Travelers coming through our city don't want to go get a case number and pray, they just want a plate of food, as well as our friends, and us! We all eat together, and talk, and meet people, hang out, and create a pleasant atmosphere. When we leave it goes right back to the way it was, but that's not something we think will be solved under our economic system, so we wish to have a good time, enjoy our small efforts and our new, as well as year old and beyond, friendships. We have a potluck picnic, and it's our choice to be where we are. We are a fixture on Sundays, the slowest day of the week, a day when many people may not feel like driving in to Southside for a $15 bottle of wine or a cup of BIG coffee. But our picnic isn't harming business, and frankly, if it was we would not care. The homeless are a part of the community, they understand community more than the yuppies who run or own the shops there and are complaining.

We had a visit by one Officer Hall, "Robo-Cop" as he is known by the local homeless guys. I taped him, whether he knew it or not I don't know, it was on the table right in front of him. But he explains (or lies in an attempt to make his job easier) that the city has hired consultants who want to clean up the streets of us and the homeless... I don't remember the exact words, but it's pretty close to that essentially. They want the homeless to be out of sight, and for us to stop having our picnics on Sunday afternoons for an hour or two. We don't intend to stop, and if we get arrested we will come back with signs and protest these businesses and the city, and bother them all much more than a so-called "drive-by feeding" ever would. As I say, we don't drive by and leave. We have community. The officer goes on for quite a while trying to get us to tell homeless people how to have better lives, and stop going number 2 on the sidewalk, etc. I told him people have been trying to get others to straighten up forever and it's totalitarian to think that everyone will all have their shit together at the same time under this system. It's a dream. We may get to an end to hunger and homelessness one day, but more and more people are becoming homeless, and as I also told the officer that will keep going on for the rest of his life.

Officer Hall acually told us that we should encourage the homeless people to have some self respect and use the bushes to go pee and poo, and to drink alcohol. It's all on tape. I intened to make a podcast out of excerpts. Frankly I have told some people the same thing, but it's not our fault their are homeless or just food insecure people in town, and we don't want to try to force them to do anything other than to come gather with us if they can make it, and they are always in the neighborhood, so many of them do. We shoud be able to gather in our spot, even as the city continues to GIVE away chnks of our public sidewalks, so the homeless don't have to be noticed by the yuppies sipping their over-priced corporate beverages. We save fresh food from reaching dumpsters and eat it with others and have a good time, and we don't want to have to conform to others's ways of doing things, since we already have one man who's studying this subject, working on a paper or a book on it, who says we are the only ones doing it right in town, just on a very small scale. I have been answering critical emails from a few friends in the local peace movement just now, so I'm feeling defensive, and I don't usually try to hide my moods. I hope I haven't seemd harsh.

Officer hall will be back, says he, this weekend to tell us if we are to be fined, jailed or what.



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