Culture Clash: Wealthy elites & poor Sarasotans
- (This is reproduced from a Sarasota Indymedia article, found here: http://sarasota.indymedia.org/local/culture-clash-time-fight-against-private-restrictions-public-space-criminalization-poverty-sar Its a response to a recent Sarasota Observer article passed along by a participant of Food Not Bombs. For full disclosure, I am an occasional participant in Food Not Bombs, and my words & views are fully my own).
First off, if anyone wants any context in this issue, this article written last year on Sarasota Indymedia is a good place to start: http://sarasota.indymedia.org/local/criminalization-homelessness
Better yet, just go downtown and ask a member of the swelling homeless population.
I would say the funniest thing about the piece is that at a casual glance, you notice the whole thing is a non-issue for Food Not Bombs folks.
Even if the event wasn't being held on a Saturday (where FNB obviously share food on Fridays 6-7:30), the event would end a full hour before we arrive at the park. I won't even bother to get into the other issues like the value of serving the food downtown (rather than on a college campus) why groups serve food at the park rather than the Salvation Army (amongst other issues, its not like their services aren't already stretched super thin as it is) and why the park couldn't be shared, which one person in the article alludes to Just to throw out a recent example: a couple of weeks ago, in addition to our normal gathering of about 50 or so people, there was a Tai Chi group of about 20 people on the grassy area of the park and about 50-100 people on the Main St. & Pineapple Ave corner of the park that were gathered for a concert that was set up there. Far from feeling like things were cramped, the various groups sharing the space made the time more festive. I won't further go into these issues right now b/c the points hardly even seem worth mentioning.
This is yet another ongoing attempt by the moneyed interests downtown-not to mention over at the Observer-to cast a negative light on any group that works to support our ever-growing homeless population. For whatever reason, Food Not Bombs continues to be singled out by the Observer (yet oddly almost never interviewed), even in instances like this where the group is only tangentially related to the issue at hand.
In addition to the recent increase in newspaper articles about the group and the somewhat troubling police presence (seriously, not that I'm trying to tell someone how to do their job, but don't the police have better things to do than literally just hang around and count the number of people in a public space?), many residents have been concerned about the ever-broadening lengths that Sarasota is taking to criminalize poverty. This is particularly concerning when one considers our skyrocketing unemployment rate and the lack of resources and manpower that social service organizations and charity groups are facing in this somewhat historical time of crisis.
Public areas, like parks, are on the shrinking list of places that people without means can go to and exist in Sarasota.
I think its well past due that the predominantly sane & moral residents of Sarasota to push back against the systematic harassment of poorer citizens and the criminalization of poverty & homelessnes (see the anti-camping ordinance as a shining example) that has made Sarasota notorious for being 'the meanest city to homeless people in the country'.
With the crippling state of the economy we are now in, it should be clear that our community development strategies aren't working. Furthermore, it should be clear that the moneyed interests with their speculative investments and their other unstainable economic practices should be sooner run out of town than allowed to further have such a strong in our future as a community.
For anyone interested in joining the struggle, come to Five Points Park next Friday (and every Friday!) @ 6 pm to help share food with folks who might otherwise go hungry. On a similar note, we will be lucky enough to have one of the founders of the International Food Not Bombs movement, Keith McHenry here with us in Sarasota. He will be delivering a talk at New College Friday evening as part of the Second Annual All Power to the Imagination! Conference that will be taking place all of next weekend.