The city of El Cajon, CA was recently forced to rescind their cruel ordinance targeting the sharing of food with homeless people on public property. This victory for the community came directly from a series of acts of civil disobedience initiated by local organizers and allies in open defiance of the ordinance.
The ordinance had been in place since a unanimous city council vote in November, 2017, prompting immediate outcries from within the community. Organizers immediately began a series of public feeds to defy the ordinance, providing hot meals, clothes, hygiene products and solidarity with some of the most marginalized people in the community. The city attempted to mislead the public, claiming that the ban was in response to the Hepatitis A outbreak and was intended to protect public health. The city and county’s blatant lies couldn’t fool local organizers, who countered that more threatening to public health was the refusal of the government to provide public restrooms and hand washing stations.
The standoff would eventually culminate in the arrests of 12 organizers, one of whom is a 14-year old minor, on misdemeanor charges which in the state of California carry a six month maximum jail sentence and/or $1000 fine. Once again city officials in El Cajon made international headlines for their lack of humanity, and exposed to the world their true selves. Public indignation at images of peaceful organizers being cited for feeding their needy neighbors forced the city to act, once again demonstrating the power of the people in the face of oppressive policies. True to their word, organizers vowed to continue their public feeds in Wells Park on a continuous basis, even after the removal of the ordinance.
On January 27, triumphant organizers and locals celebrated the latest hot meal service provided out of Wells Park in El Cajon. Dozens of people received nutritious, hot meals, clothing and hygiene kits on a sunny day filled with the sounds of children playing in the nearby park. The event saw community members come together for the first time since the removal of the ordinance banning the feeding of the homeless. Organizers told Liberation News that they intend to start up a weekly meal service to connect with their neighbors on a more frequent basis, acknowledging that large portions of the community lack reliable food security.
The worst is seemingly over in El Cajon, but local organizers promise to stay active to combat the remaining laws unfairly targeting the homeless in the city, such as the still active laws prohibiting panhandling and sleeping on public property. As the community celebrates its well earned victory, organizers will continue working tirelessly to combat the inherent cruelty of capitalism, an example worthy of imitation.