Protesters vow to overturn El Cajon’s ban on giving food to homeless

EL CAJON (KUSI) — A group of a dozen protesters arrested in El Cajon for feeding the homeless has said it won’t back down.

The defiant protesters said they’re intent on changing the law.

El Cajon police made the arrests on Sunday in Wells Park, citing people for breaking a municipal ordinance that bars people from sharing food in parks and other city properties.

The emergency measure was passed in October as a means of reducing the spread of the highly contagious Hepatitis A virus.

The activists who defied the ban, by serving pre-packaged sandwiches and drinks said the law is singling out the poor and the homeless while allowing others to be exempt. Under the ordinance, sports teams, social clubs and family groups are still permitted to share food.

An attorney representing the group, “Break the Ban” said he will defend those who were arrested and also file a civil suit against the city to challenge the law’s constitutionality.
Attorney Scott Dreher said the law violates the constitutional right to free speech.

“I have the right to freedom of speech. I want to go express my support to homeless people and feed them,” said Dreher. “I have the right to go to a public park to give them a pack of crackers and a banana. Why is that illegal? There’s nothing about that that is going to spread Hep A,” said Dreher.

Sunday’s event was the second organized by the group “Break the Ban.” Supporters of food sharing say they will return to the park on January 27 for another feeding, even though they risk arrest.

The City of El Cajon said it has no plans at this time to change the law. City officials said they have told the public about more than a dozen locations where food is served and distributed and published a list of restaurants that honor food stamps.

According to a formal statement released on Monday, “The city encourages those that wish to feed homeless individuals to work with existing community groups.”

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