Friday, March 25, 2011

2011-03-25 "Right To Share Food No. 1"
Hello, My name is Michael “Waterman” Hubman of the charity Watercorps and organizer with the Right To Share Food Coalition. Right To Share Food was formed in response to the June 2, 2010 take down by government of the Towne Avenue Soup Line, and continued harassment by government of ongoing efforts to feed the poor and homeless population of Skid Row Los Angeles. Prior to the take down of the soup line, volunteers from the World Agape Drop In Center had been feeding the poor and homeless of Eastern Skid Row Los Angeles six days a week at the same location for over five years.
The Right To Share Food Extravaganza II (The first one happened on September 30, 2010.) was scheduled to take place on Sunday March 20, 2011. The date for this event was selected to coincide with the vernal equinox and first day of spring. We had no way of knowing that mother nature had arranged for a fast moving cold front and rain storm  to sweep through the region that very day. This weather event also managed to drench the runners, staff and spectators of the Los Angeles Marathon.
The players at this Right To Share Food Event were Tanya and her group with GuerilLA Food Not Bombs, James and his group from World Share (formally World Agape), General Dogon of LA CAN and myself.
My day started in the morning when I visited three groups who were feeding the homeless and the poor on Gladys Street and Towne Avenue . I invited them to our event, and encouraged them to join our coalition. I said that it was important to organize to defend their right to share food. All of the feeders were glad to hear that they had friends who were sticking up for them and their right to share food. One lady told me; “you mean you are for us and not against us?”
After my visit with the feeders, I spent the rest of the morning with James at World Share puzzling over the Doppler Radar images on line. Would we get a break in the weather? Not likely. It looked like our event was scheduled for the middle of the storm.
At one in the afternoon, I went to the corner of Sixth and Towne to sit in my car and greet anyone who happened to show up for our event. I sat and watched as sheets of rain fell on the empty street. All of the players were prepared to come out and get drenched. Tanya and her group were cooking James and General Dogon were ready to go. I told them to stay dry and hold up until I called. Then it occurred to me that we should move this event indoors to World Share. I called and cleared it with James. I called Tanya and General Dogon with the change of venue.
I drove around and verbally invited anyone who was still out on the street, mostly on San Julian Street and at The Midnight Mission courtyard, to come and enjoy a hot meal and to eat inside.
Tanya arrived with a great vegetarian meal. I told the people who were assembled that today’s meal was special in that we were celebrating our right to share food. Tanya and her group served up rice beans and vegetable soup.
General Dogon spoke about his history as a lifelong resident of Skid Row. He talked about Skid Row Los Angeles being the most heavily policed place in America . He spoke about the human and civil rights work done at LA CAN.
I spoke about the history and development of Right To Share Food. I spoke about the right to share food being a fundamental human right. I said that we believe that our right to share food is protected under the freedom of association clause of the first amendment of the constitution.
For the first time; I publicly advocated for the recall of Councilmember Perry.  I said I had  been avoiding talking about recall until I could secure some backing for such an effort. I said that the recall concept was not going anywhere unless we started talking about it.
I closed by saying that Councilmember Perry thought she was just dumping on some little people when she caused the shutdown of the Towne Avenue Soup Line. She did not know that by causing the take down of the soup line that she was jump starting the right to share food movement.
James thanked every one for coming. We put away the food. James started the movie that had been paused for the Right To Share Food event.
All in all; we had a good day.
Please read the following Right To Share Food Position Paper.

"Right To Share Food"
At Right To Share Food, we believe that sharing food with our brothers and sisters is a fundamental human right. We believe that sharing food is a constitutionally protected activity, guaranteed under the freedom of association clause of the first amendment of The Constitution of the United States of America . We believe that sharing food outside and in public is an equally protected activity. Our goal is to promote cooperation among people in order to exercise and defend this right.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Michael Hubman. I am the founder and the facilitator of Right To Share Food and member of Right To Share Food Coalition. Since 2007 I have been lobbying on behalf of the human and civil rights of homeless people. I operate Watercorps, a charity that gives bulk drinking water to the homeless people living on the streets of Skid Row Los Angeles.
You might ask; why do we feel the need to organize and lobby to protect and exercise our right to share food? The answer is, that it is a common occurrence in contemporary society, for those who are morally and spiritually motivated, to want to help others who find themselves in a state of need. This state of need is often manifested by poverty, homelessness and destitution. Those who desire to come to the aid of their less fortunate brothers and sisters, commonly express this aid by sharing food.
Conflict occurs when government, most often municipalities, attempt to effect social engineering by restricting or forbidding the sharing of food on public property, the commons and even private property. I liken this kind of social engineering by cities to wildlife management. The problem is, we are talking about our human brothers and sisters, and not unwanted pigeons or other pesky wild life. Why?
I can’t speak for these municipal wild life managers. I can only guess. My guess as to why the sovereign would act in such a selfish and mean spirited manner is greed. Poverty and homelessness are commonly viewed by some who are not similarly afflicted as messy and unsightly. The sight of homeless and poor people lining up to receive a charitable meal makes it hard to convince oneself and others that all is well in their area of interest. When poverty and homelessness are not sufficiently hidden and dispersed, it tends to raise concerns among some who would worry about depressed commerce and property values.
When homeless people gather in public, especially in numbers, they often generate a response by government to harass them with the goal of dispersing them. The dispersing of the homeless to make them less visible robs them of community and society and denies them their right to associate. Harassing the people who want to share food and aid the homeless and poor is just another tactic to disperse them and deny them the right to associate and assemble.
Sincerely, Michael Hubman [714-746-1203] [714-746-1203] [][]
[] (aka) []
[]  (Coalition for the Abolition of Safer Cities Initiative)
[]  (This is a link to the 191 Pg. human rights report.)
[]  (Peoples Lobby for Economic Justice)
Please Mail us a check. Michael Hubman / Watercorps 620 E. First St. Los Angeles CA 90012 

2010-10-04 "Defending the right to share food: Skid Row’s community picnic" by Carly Gillis
Themes of empowerment and social responsibility permeated a community picnic in Skid Row on Thursday, Sept. 30. The event was both a festival and a protest against the alleged rise in citations against charities distributing food to the homeless in downtown.
Groups from the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), Los Angles Catholic Worker, Food Not Bombs, World Agape Church, Hunger Action LA, Coalition LA and others gathered at Towne Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets to distribute food and supplies, free of charge.
Dozens of homeless and Skid Row residents filed into quiet lines while organizers rallied in defense of their community.
“They are directly targeting folks down here,” said General Dogon, organizer for LA CAN. “We got to stand up and get involved. It’s going to take all of us to do it.”
The event was the culmination of months of planning by the groups. Three months prior to the event, the World Agape Church food line, which had been in operation for over five years, was closed by the Los Angeles County Health Department.
Volunteers that participate in similar social outreach banded together soon afterward to protest this and the alleged rise in policing the distribution of free food.
Kay Chung, manager at World Agape Church, is looking into obtaining a permit to restart the food line. The church is lead by Korean missionaries with headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. Chung grew up during the Korean War. The help his family received from other countries during that time inspired him to help others.
“I was so young. I remember getting dried milk and corn from the United States,” said Chung. “Now the economic conditions are growing better … so now we can spread money to homeless people.”
The first organizers set up their supplies at 3 p.m. A wide variety of handouts were available and not limited to food. Toiletries, clothing and even healthy cookbooks were given out freely. For hungry attendees, the organizers provided ice cream, fruit, hamburgers, Acai drinks, doughnuts, soup, pasta and more.
Drum circles and a group of guitarists and singers entertained the crowds. Songs like “Let My People Go” and “Wade in the Water” wafted through the air [], along with the scent of burning sage.
Mike Wisniewski, a server at the LA Catholic Worker, spoke about tangentially related frustrations regarding the LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative (SCI). In 2006, the police department dispatched an fifty additional officers to the fifty square blocks of Skid Row.
“I think it’s demoralizing, inhumane, and really atrocious,” said Wisniewski. “All it does is have a demoralizing effect on everyone that’s affected by it, including us who serve.”
Along with perpetuating negative connotations, SCI is also described as ineffective. SCI has even come under scrutiny by UCLA faculty Gary Blasi and graduate student Forrest Stuart. In 2008, they released a report on SCI titled “Has the Safer Cities Initiative in Skid Row Reduced Serious Crime?” []
“We found that, as to overall serious or violent crime, the reduction of crime in the SCI deployment area was not statistically significant from the reduction in the non-SCI area,” stated Blasi and Stuart in their report.
Event organizers frequently spoke in opposition to SCI. Dogon urged all in attendance to sign a petition against it. Taking up a mobile loudspeaker, he announced that a preliminary petition was delivered to LAPD’s Central Division before the event which included 3,500 signatures. Dogon hoped to get another petition organized at the event.
Michael Hubman of Watercorps, a water distribution charity, first brought the closing of World Agape Church’s soup line to the attention of LA CAN. Hubman maintains that SCI and the actions against the homeless of the area is less about the improvement of the area and more about a class war.
“We believe that sharing food with our brothers and sisters is a fundamental human right,” said Hubman. “We’re talking about our human brothers and sisters, not unwanted pigeons or pesky wildlife.”
Nevylle Flagg once worked at World Agape Church. Although he stopped volunteering in August of 2009, he decided to be a part of Thursday’s action as soon as he heard about the closure of the soup line.
“The red shirts would stop by and give us garbage bags, talk to us, help us,” said Flagg, referring to the uniform color of security hired by area businesses. “That’s why this is so weird. Somewhere in May or June the politics flipped and now they’re starting to attack us.”
Many of the attendees were grateful for the palatable variety available at the picnic, beyond just its quality. Many unanimously preferred food given by independent organizations over “bland” food given out at missions.
“Mission food? I feel like I’ve gotten more messed up on mission food than I have on the street,” said Skid Row resident Tony Johnson. “[Mission food] comes from food banks, and a lot of it is either expired or close to its expiration date.”
Bilal Ali, organizer for Coalition LA, performed a spoken-word poem for the event. The piece was entitled “Happy Anniversary” in reference to the fourth anniversary of SCI [].
“Happy anniversary, for making it a crime to be poor, for making it a crime to sleep on a concrete floor,” read Ali. “Hail, hail to the new Rome, where you’re no longer welcome so take your poor ass to find a new home. …
They may beat us, they may mistreat us, but they ain’t never going to defeat us.”
Although police patrols frequently circled the event, no direct action was taken to close or limit the organizers’ activities.
Activists plan to continue having community picnics in Skid Row, however a future date has not yet been set.

People line up for food provided by Food Not Bombs. The charity served fruit, salad, stir fry and bread as part of a picnic on Skid Row to defend what organizers call their “right to share food,” which they feel has been under attack by the LAPD and Health Dept. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

 General Dogon, an organizer for LA CAN, stands on Towne Avenue and speaks to Skid Row residents in line for food. “This is our community,” he tells them. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

 A member of World Agape hands a box of juice to a man in line for food. Along with juice, World Agape provided hamburgers, doughnuts, ice cream, grapefruit and clothing. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)
During a speech given by an organizer, an SUV pulled up along side. Its passengers displayed patronizing/instigating gestures towards the crowd. Organizers say the passengers were LAPD in civilian clothes. During the picnic, many LAPD patrol cars were witnessed slowing down while its officers glared at people in line for food. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Members of LA Catholic Worker provide music for the picnic. The charity also served lentil soup. (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

Bilal Ali, with help from a djembe player from Skid Row Playez, performs his spoken word poem. Speaking in meter and in opposition to the LAPD’s Safer Cities Initiative, Ali says to the crowd, “We’re too legit to quit.” (Dan Bluemel / LA Activist)

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