Merry Christmas! Atlanta Police Shut Down Food Donations For the Homeless

P. Gardner Goldsmith | December 12, 2017

Atlanta’s government is really getting into the Christmas spirit this year.

Thanks to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Georgia State University Police Chief Joseph “Mickey” Spillane, taxpayers can revel in the warm, charitable glow -- that wonderful sight of kindness in action -- as food is literally taken from the hands of the hungry.

Thanks to Baylen Lennekin, of Reason, and a video posted a few weeks ago, we have the details.

As Lennekin writes, around Thanksgiving, Mayor Reed -- a big exponent of his own virtuous belief that the heavy hammer of government should be used to “help the poor”, and a guy whose recent monolithic $15 per hour minimum wage command will make it harder for poor, unskilled people to find jobs – apparently decided to enforce a long-unenforced Fulton Country mandate that generous people go to the government for permission to share food.

Lennekin and the video reveal that as volunteers were handing out food to the homeless at Hurt Park, which is in the center of the Georgia State University campus, police showed up to threaten the charitable with fines and stop the handouts from occurring.

Early in the video, for example, we see a flabbergasted woman—who says she's a licensed baker and had just driven for an hour to deliver baked goods to the homeless—turned away by the police. The video later shows at least one person holding a ticket she said officers issued her for allegedly violating county health department foodservice regulations. On the video, she describes the ticket as the same one a restaurant might receive for selling food without a permit.

Think about it: could there be a better way to cast off the Scrooge-like mantel during the holidays – to smile, and enjoy the simple fellowship of man -- than to have armed police shut down, cite with fines, and possibly arrest volunteers who are feeding the homeless?

Thanks to Lennekin, we know this is not an isolated incident. All over the U.S., bullying politicians and their tax-gulping functionaries are setting on volunteers, simply because they haven’t asked for permission from the government, or paid their feudal government lords the “permit tribute.”

In June, Lennekin reported that the charitable group that was trying to help people in Atlanta also ran into trouble with Orlando, Florida, bureaucrats.

In 2012, his Royal Awesomeness, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg got in on the act:

Then-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg famously banned people from donating food to city shelters… "because the city can't assess their salt, fat and fiber content."

As I noted for MRCTV in February, the state of Arizona recently shut down a man who was giving free haircuts to the homeless. Why? Because he wasn’t “licensed” by their almighty Board of Cosmetology.

In 2016, a horse owner in Tennessee was threatened with jail, and told by the state that she could not do horse massage on her own animal because she was not a licensed vet.

And, as I reported in the same February article, the usually left-leaning Huffington Post noted in 2014 that 33 cities in the U.S. had forbidden people from feeding the poor without government permission.

During this season of giving, the expression, “What gives?” seems to be frustratingly appropriate. Why do these politicians and bureaucrats insist on being so foolish and imperious?

In Atlanta, the Chief argued that his officers descended on food volunteers to prevent littering. But, Lennekin notes that:

Volunteers on the Indymedia video balk at that claim, saying they bring their own trash bags and remove and dispose of any trash generated during the feeding program.

So one is left to consider the perennial and obvious reasons government attacks people engaged in private consensual interaction.

First: the government didn’t get its cut, the cash it would get if people paid for “permits” to be free. We can’t possibly allow one group to be free! After all, then everyone would say they shouldn’t have to pay tribute to the state just to be free.

Second: the government doesn’t trust people to handle their own risks. Just like King Bloomberg indicated in 2012, people are just too stupid to offer or take safe food. It requires the brilliantine Mr. Bloomberg and his cadre of tax-funded people to manage other peoples’ lives. QED.

Finally, politicians have friends in certain businesses who don’t want competition -- from veterinarians, hair-cutters, or even from people handing out food to the homeless -- so they set up an Olympian-sized wall of bureaucracy to keep that competition out.

How many more people would engage in charitable activity, and how many more people could be helped, if these “laws” were eliminated?

And when questioning these laws, it's appropriate to note the common misapprehension when folks ask a ubiquitous question, “Are we a nation of laws, or a nation of men?”

“We” immediately assumes my consent, which is incorrect. And the “men” write the laws. The more appropriate term to consider at this time of Christian charity is that of statute. As Christ Himself explained to people, there are higher laws than the statutes written by men. Statutes are not always in line with Natural Law, especially the key component of Natural Law, which is that one can only act on his or her morals if he or she is free to voluntarily do so. An action has no moral component if it is compelled.

And that is what these government rules do. They are weapons of compulsion.

At a time when folks think about Christ and His legacy, perhaps politicians might want to consider that before they threaten people just for being kind.