Cooking up a revolution

Food Not Bombs, Homes Not Jails, and resistance to gentrification

Author: Sean Parson

On Labor Day in 1988 two hundred hungry and homeless people went to Golden Gate Park in search of a hot meal, while fifty-four activists from Food Not Bombs, surrounded by riot police, lined up to serve them food. The riot police counted twenty-five served meals, the legal number allowed by city law before breaking permit restrictions, and then began to arrest people. The arrests proceeded like an assembly line: an activist would scoop a bowl of food and hand it to a hungry person. A police officer would then handcuff and arrest that activist. Immediately, the next activist in line would take up the ladle and be promptly arrested. By the end of the day fifty-four people had been arrested for “providing food without a permit.” These arrests were not an aberration but part of a multi-year campaign by the city of San Francisco against radical homeless activists. Why would a liberal city arrest activists helping the homeless? In exploring this question, the book uses the conflict between the city and activists as a unique opportunity to examine the contested nature of urban politics, homelessness, and public space, while developing an anarchist alternative to liberal urban politics, which is rooted in mutual aid, solidarity, and anti-capitalism.

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