Originally published August 12 2015
Overweight bicycle cops fine philanthropic San Antonio woman $2,000 for feeding hungry homeless persons with a permit; only the government can feed the poor
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) In the ever-expanding police state that America has become, even following the rules can get you in trouble with the law. Now, apparently, only the government can help poor people, because that contributes to dependency.
As reported by the San Antonio Express-News, a local woman whose charitable activities include feeding the poor, and who has been featured on celebrity chef Rachel Ray's cooking show, was recently handed a citation by police, even though she has a permit to do what she's doing.
Gilbert Garcia, a columnist for the paper, noted that, despite the fact that downtown San Antonio "has room for hotels, bars, mirror mazes, haunted houses and wax museums," it "has no room for compassion."
He further notes:
That's the obvious message from the city's latest crackdown on kindness, a citation (carrying a potential $2,000 fine) issued by four San Antonio Police Department bike-patrol officers [recently] to Joan Cheever, founder of the nonprofit food truck, the Chow Train.
"You can't do that"
For a decade, Cheever has dedicated every Tuesday night to providing hot, restaurant-quality meals to homeless residents in the downtown part of the city. Oftentimes, city officers would bike or drive past her and wave, with smiles. Many times, she would jokingly ask if they were there to arrest her, which would usually solicit a laugh from the officers.
But on a recent Tuesday, the chuckling stopped. Cheever was in Maverick Park serving a meal that included lamb meatballs, spaghetti, a vegetable soup and a garden salad, when cops cited her for violating a city code: Her "crime" was transporting food to the park in a vehicle other than the mobile truck for which she has a food permit.
"I told the officer that we cook dinner in the truck and then we put it in health-department-approved catering equipment, like every caterer or restaurant-delivery service in this town, and then serve it. And he said, 'You can't do that.'"
Garcia says Cheever's case cannot be viewed as random.
"Over the past year, it's become increasingly obvious that the city wants its homeless population out of the view of downtown tourists," he wrote. "It wants to push the homeless west of downtown to Haven for Hope, and discourage any acts of compassion that might divert them from that destination."
In September, then-Police Chief William McManus suggested making it a Class C misdemeanor to give money to local panhandlers -- which was met with public scorn and summarily dismissed as an option.
The newspaper's Benjamin Olivo has also reported that the city likely (and discreetly) moved benches from Houston Street because officials were concerned that the benches would contribute to loitering and panhandling in the area.
In addition, Garcia noted:
There was also the case of Calvary Chapel of San Antonio, which for 17 years had devoted the last Saturday of October to handing out food and clothes to the needy in Travis Park. Last year, the city bumped them from the park that Saturday, until then-Councilman Diego Bernal raised an objection.
"This is how I pray"
The columnist also noted that the city's Municipal Court throws out most of the citations issued by police to homeless people who are panhandling -- an obvious disconnect between the court and the SAPD.
"(The city) has already made being poor and homeless a crime," Cheever said, "and now they're going after Good Samaritans.
"I always say, 'We're not working against Haven for Hope, we're working with them.' They have a waiting list, and they send their people over to us, and we feed them.
"This is how I pray," she said.
Cheever says she'll challenge her citation under Texas' 1999 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that says state and local governments must show a "compelling governmental interest," like public health or safety, before they can limit the free exercise of religion.
But beyond that, it is apparent that, increasingly, local, state and federal governments are using their authority not to serve the public but to control it. Get out of line and you're going to have to answer to The Man.
Cheever is raising funds for her defense. If you want to contribute, click here.
A video describing her work and her organization is available here.
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