Reuters / Mike Blake
  
This is simply a serious abuse of power! These people who signed this into law should be kicked out of office. If I want to help some one I am going to and the state isn’t going to tell me what to do about it! This is way out of hand and they call their selves Human. I Think Not!
                                      

After more than a decade of feeding the homeless in Columbia, South Carolina, one group’s tradition could be in danger of ending as the city begins enforcing rules to limit the gathering of large groups in public parks.

  As of February 15, Columbia began requiring any group of 25  people or more to pay for and obtain a permit 15 days in advance  if they wished to use the city’s parks for an event. This  requirement was extended even to non-profit groups and charities,  though their fees would be smaller.

  The problem for one of the most well-known groups that feeds the  homeless, however, is that it doesn’t even qualify as a charity.  For about 12 years, Food Not Bombs has been gathering in a  Columbia park to share meals with those less fortunate. That  tradition is in jeopardy, according to organizer Judith  Turnipseed, since the new policy would force the group to pay at  least $120 per week in order to meet.

“We have no formal organization,” Turnipseed told the  weekly South Carolina newspaper Free Times. “We don’t have a  501(c)(3). We’re just a group of people who come to the park and  bring food and share it with anyone who comes. That includes  people who are homeless, and people who have a home but are  hungry. It’s a people’s picnic.”

What’s more, efforts by Food Not Bombs to join a new shelter  organized by Christ Central Ministries have ended in failure as  well, leaving the group to consider taking legal action against  the city in order to maintain its ability to gather in the parks.

  The whole situation is reminiscent of another that’s taking place  in Washington state, where a church group called Crazy Faith  Ministries believes it’s being targeted for its efforts to feed  the homeless population in Olympia. As RT reported last year, the mission gathers in  empty lots to feed the hungry, but the city wants them to move  due to complaints by business owners.

  Back in Columbia, Jeff Caton of the Parks and Recreation  Department said that while the city’s homeless problem did create  momentum for the new policies, they are intended to target large  groups in general, not those dedicated to serving the poor and  the hungry.

“We do have groups that come to our facilities without  notice, bring large groups,” Caton said to Free Times.   “When that happens, he says, sometimes there aren’t enough  trash cans for the group, or the bathrooms aren’t ready, and it  can hurt everyone’s park experience.”

Caton doesn’t think he’ll have to deny many permits, but the  ordinance does allow the department to turn away groups or  activities that “will unreasonably interfere with or detract from  the enjoyment” of the park or other facilities.

  These events began unfolding in 2013, when Columbia sought new  ways to keep the homeless population from moving about the city.  One plan that’s been enacted involved establishing a new shelter  away from popular areas and directing charities such as Christ  Central Ministries to set up shop there. The law has been  criticized by some, such as the South Carolina chapter of the  American Civil liberties Union, for essentially exiling the  homeless population.

“The underlying design is that they want the homeless not to  be visible in downtown Columbia,” said Susan Dunn of the  ACLU to Think Progress last year. “You can shuttle them  somewhere or you can go to jail. That’s, in fact, an abuse of  power.”


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