Tag Archives: Mayor Annise Parker

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Houston Homeless Advocates Face Off With Gentrified Snitches Near Downtown As Super Bowl Nears

Houston, TX – In April 2012, the City of Houston, including Mayor Annise Parker passed an anti – food sharing ordinance which made it illegal for any group or individual to feed the homeless or those in need without risking a fine of $500 – $2,000 or even jail. The ordinance states that if you feed more than 5 individuals, you can be subjected to breaking the law. To date, there are groups and homeless advocates who continue to feed the homeless without a permit that’s required to share food. Food Not Bombs Houston has been feeding Houston’s homeless over 23 years. FNB was at the forefront fighting the city over the ordinance and through today is the only food sharing group who doesn’t have to have permission from the city to feed those in need of a meal. FNB is made of up volunteers who are involved in church, activism, homeless advocacy or not involved in anything but just wants to come help. Individuals come from all diversities and share food M, W, F at 8 p.m. and Sun at 7 p.m., rain or shine, holiday or not. FNB refused to adhere to the city ordinance and that is why I’ve enjoyed working with the group for 5 years. The majority of volunteers who are committed truly have a heart for our homeless community. That is what makes this work so well, serving roughly 90 – 120 people. FNB is a vegetarian food sharing and prides itself on serving a healthier alternative. Homeless are not the only ones who come to eat. We’ve had scores of people throughout the years who have homes but don’t have enough food in the home so they come eat with FNB. Even volunteers are encouraged to eat, hence why we call this a food sharing and not a feeding.

Look behind FNB and that’s where you find a brightly lit of building that is Houston City Hall now run by Mayor Sylvester Turner who has also refused to reverse the anti – food sharing ordinance. Back in June 2016, Houston was dealing with a KUSH epidemic that impacted our homeless for months after Houston Police seized 9 tons of KUSH after making a bust the 3rd week of May. Within one week of the bust, Houston’s homeless were heavily impacted by KUSH use that flooded the streets of downtown and local parks around the downtown area. Coincidence? No. However, no police agency or city dept would admit that the flow of KUSH came by the same people who claim to serve and protect. Once the KUSH ran out, so did the issue of the concerns of our homeless who were on it, impacting communities. Mayor Turner used the KUSH matter at part of the reason for not reversing the food sharing ordinance. I’ve heard Turner defend the homeless through words however through action, I’m not seeing the same. December 22, 2016 at two different locations that happened nearly the same time, two homeless downtown hotspots were hit by police. Near Minute Maid Park, Houston Police caved into the homeless camp with city waste, trashing homeless items by the bulk. Several homeless claimed that their personal possessions were trashed without permission. HPD told the homeless to stand back or get arrested. At the Wheeler camp at the same time, Pct 7 police questioned whether I fed the homeless, reminding me it is illegal to feed. Admitting that I fed the homeless and wished they were 5 minutes earlier so I could receive a ticket, it left the officer dumbfounded. (Link below)

https://www.facebook.com/shere.dore.5/videos/1773082762953732/?pnref=story

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HPD and Houston Waste Mgmt show up at a homeless camp near Minute Maid Park Dec 22, 2016, trashing items belonging to the homeless

Mayor Turner had sent out a press release to the public concerning the Wheeler homeless camp. While originally I was glad that items belonging to the homeless were left untouched and that the city focused on the heavy trash under the bridge, I was disappointed by his use of stereotypes in the release. “Drug use” AND “crime” won’t be tolerated. No shit! It shouldn’t be tolerated by any citizen, not just the homeless however this is the continued stigma that city officials continue to push. This could be the words led by Janice Evans (his Communications Director & who hates me with a passion) however the words were approved by the Mayor and to continue to spew rhetoric that condition people to be scared of the homeless and continue this outlook. These are one of the reasons why we are here facing off.

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Part of Mayor Turner’s Press Release concerning Wheeler camps days ago

The entire press release can be linked here: http://www.houstongovnewsroom.org/go/doc/2155/2912434/

Fast forward to the last few months where homeless in the downtown area have been hearing rumors that the city is going to ensure their presence will no longer be during Super Bowl week, has caused homeless advocates and homeless advocate supporters to come out and determine how to handle this matter.  In San Francisco last year during their Super Bowl, it was illegal to be homeless in or around the area where Super Bowl festivities were taking place. In Houston, activists and advocates are refusing to let that happen. The Wheeler homeless camp has become a fighting ground between advocates, police/city of Houston and gentrified snitches. Gentrification has been a problem in Houston for years now. Areas of town where once white money wouldn’t dare drive in the communities are now throwing $200k – millions for gentrified housing in the same areas spoken the worst of over decades like 3rd Ward, Midtown, 4th Ward and so on. Executives who once flooded newly built territories in the suburbs like Sugar Land, Cinco Ranch, all the CY – areas and more have now come back into the city to buy homes near downtown. There’s only one problem… the homeless had that territory first. However, white money continues to build these aluminum boldly painted homes and while some tend to gravitate towards money and the “finer things of life” the truth is, we still have a homeless population that needs to be handled with care. If anything, just to receive a meal or proper healthcare. The gentrified snitches refuse to see it that way. Their idea and concerning revolves around money and their property values. Here are a couple of examples of gentrified snitches:

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These are the typical people who are walking zombies of society. They don’t have a compassionate bone in their body. They believe the world revolves around them only. They also swear they’ve visited with these same homeless several times and that all of them are healthy looking without mental issues so why can’t they go get a job? In reality, these are the kinds who eat up our planet with their inhumane bile and ego’s that stand taller than any of the buildings they work in, they decide to call the police anytime a group of people are seen at the Wheeler camp. The last 3 trips I’ve taken to Wheeler camp in a week has led to being confronted by police 3 times, asking if we’re feeding the homeless. On Sunday afternoon a family in a red truck came out to hand out blankets to the homeless when Pct 7 came out, questioning the family.

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Pct 7 Officer questions a family handing out blankets to the homeless on January 15, 2017

The weekend prior, a gentrified snitch called the police which led to 5 HPD units questioning whether we were feeding the homeless when we were out there to clean up the Wheeler camp.

15974938_1402434459775333_6010010925891356200_o  (Burnell McCray: Photo Credit)

 

A Latino family, children included, had walked through the Wheeler camp to hand out sandwiches, cold drinks and chips. As the family made their way back, a gentrified snitch stopped the family, scolding them in front of their children advising that they are not allowed to feed the homeless. She was not friendly either. She has been seen driving around the Wheeler camp in a newer model Cadillac and is described as an older white haired white woman. While gentrified snitches are attempting to rid the homeless from the area, a group of activists have enacted their official “Homeless Watch” that has begun. These watches will ensure that our homeless are not mistreated because they are homeless whether it is in a gentrified area or areas where Super Bowl festivities will be taking place. Several Houston police officers have been independently telling several homeless men and women that they will not be allowed to be downtown or in areas near NRG Stadium where the Super Bowl will be held next month. Some officers have stated that the homeless are to stay outside a 3 – 5 mile radius of downtown and NRG. Homeless advocates met with a Sgt Herndon under HPD Assist Chief Troy Finner on Jan 5th who confirmed that no orders were set out for Houston officers to relay such information to the homeless. According to HPD, any officer outlining any rules at this time, are making these claims on their own and are not backed by HPD. We’ve been advised that if or when a time comes that rules will come forward, that we will be made aware of these rules so that we can communicate them to the homeless. Houston Officer Cuffy who works at The Beacon, which is a homeless service located in downtown Houston, was filmed telling a homeless man that if the homeless are downtown at the time of Super Bowl, that they would be going to jail. The man tells the officer, “But you cannot arrest someone just because they are homeless”. Cuffy replies, “You’re right, we can’t. But we can find something else to charge you with.” Because the man in the video is the one who brought this to my attention, is why it is important for me to keep him anonymous, for his safety. The video was very real and very chilling which caused me to initiate a homeless watch and bring together others who would assist in watching and defending those who are defenseless. Homeless watches have already begun in different hotspots around downtown, to NRG Stadium, to Hobby Airport. These watches will continue through the night of the Super Bowl so the gentrified snitches should get themselves ready. The homeless may not be able to stand up for themselves but we’ve stepped in and are quite ready to take on any challenges offered. In the end, is this really about keeping law and order concerning the food ordinance? Or is it the City of Houston who is caving to white money? White money being the gentrified areas creating havoc and those complaining because they are worried about Houston’s image during Super Bowl? I do know that each time I go check on the homeless, I nor anyone else, should be subjected to a cops who’ve been tattled to by a bunch of snobs. Since when did Houston because “that city”?  – END

“Until we begin to deal with mental issues surrounding homelessness (i.e. ptsd from becoming and living homeless on top of possibly having other mental disorders) we will continue to have this problem.” – Shere Dore

Burnell McCray has been photo documenting Houston for over 30-years. He’s sharing his album concerning the Wheeler homeless camp up close and personal. You can see the engagement with the homeless and engagement with the powers that be when police arrive.

https://www.facebook.com/burnell.mccray/media_set?set=a.1402425396442906.1073742028.100000263770122&type=3

***I will be addressing City Council Wednesday morning to discuss the continued harassment by these gentrified snitches and to also question actions led by police towards our homeless lately***

 

 

Local Activists Prepare Actions Over The FBI’s Cover-Up Concerning An Assassination Plot To Kill Key Activists of Occupy Houston

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Key activists of Occupy Houston were once targeted by a sniper group while the FBI continues to withhold information about the assassination plot.

January 2013 an article was written concerning the early stages and findings: “Occupy movement nationwide targeted as an assassination plot unfolds: FBI gives no warning” which gave little detail about an assassination plot that surfaced after FBI documents revealed the following:

An identified [redacted] of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protesters in Houston, Texas, if deemed necessary. An identified [redacted] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [Redacted] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.

January 2013 article here:  http://www.sheredore.com/?p=214

OCCUPY HOUSTON’S BACKGROUND

The article detailed Occupy Houston’s findings back then and this is now. Nearly three-years since Occupy Houston began, the assassination plot concerning key activists of Occupy Houston has become a hot topic once more, especially for those deeply involved with activism and the community. Occupy Houston is an extension of Occupy Wall Street that thrived in September 2011. The Occupy movement ignited after the Arab Spring in the Mid-East sparked protests all over the globe by individuals and groups who clearly had enough of corruption within their government and the role that major corporations played with political leaders. Occupy Houston jumped on board and hosted their first rally on October 6, 2011, just three-weeks after the start of Occupy Wall Street (OWS).

Houston is the 4th largest city in America which has a population of nearly 4-million (including the surrounding suburbs) and is considered the Energy Capitol of the World. Houston has the 2nd highest number of Fortune 500 companies after New York. These corporations include:  Phillips 66, ConocoPhillips, Sysco, Halliburton, Marathon Oil and National Oilwell Vargo just to name a few. Occupy Houston along with Occupy extensions throughout the U.S. were assembling on public space while forming several actions that protested corporations, banks and political leaders who intentionally depleted the nations economy, used their financial powers to obtain special favors from Congress and of course the infamous 1%, 85 of the worlds wealthiest people. In fact, the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest individuals on the planet. Combine the highly imbalanced scale where it concerned minimum wage workers vs. the corporate elite, including our nations government who had passed a bill that gave an $800-billion bail out via tax dollars to banks and mega financial groups. Congress approved the $800 billion bailout quickly and quietly.  Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and seven other U.S. banks were paid $32.6 billion in bonuses by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008 which went to a handful of bank executives meanwhile the majority of the nations people were hit with job losses that had a negative rippling effect for individuals personally and America’s economy. It is no surprised that The People were fed up and wanted to do something about the growing problem. Occupy was born. Although mainstream medias perpetrated a very negative view of the Occupy movement, those who were personally involved and those who supported Occupy had first hand knowledge that while imperfect, Occupy was attempting to make positive changes within the country. Occupy worked hard to ensure that voices were not silenced, giving people an outlet and even breeding new activists. With all the positive energies surfacing with a true will to do good in society, Occupy Houston was appalled upon learning about an assassination plot. Even worse, the FBI failed to inform Occupy Houston of the plot which added speculation among local activists.

MEET RYAN SHAPIRO

Ryan Shapiro is a researcher and an advocate for animal rights groups. Shapiro is most known for his FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests to government entities and has almost become an expert concerning FOIA requests. When the U.S. government has refused to process those requests or provided data that is highly redacted or presumed to be manipulated, Shapiro has pursued repeated litigation that has been widely publicized. Shapiro currently has more than 700 active FOIA requests and four pending lawsuits with the FBI. Most recently Shapiro has been in the media worldwide concerning Occupy Houston and the FBI. Shapiro learned of the assassination plot aimed at key activist of Occupy Houston and initiated a FOIA request through the FBI to obtain more information on the assassination plot. The FBI responded by giving Shapiro heavily redacted (information intentionally blacked out by the FBI) documents that gave Shapiro no information concerning the plot. Shapiro filed a suit against the FBI for a violation of FOIA itself. The FBI had identified 17-pages that concern the plot but only surrendered 5-pages however little to no information was obtained by Shapiro or his FOIA attorney, Jeffrey Light. FBI FOIA Chief David Hardy defended suppressing the information in a motion to dismiss Shapiro’s lawsuit. The request concerned material that the FBI had given to local authorities who were investigating “potential criminal activity” by Occupy Houston protesters. The FBI was working with them to assess potential terrorist threats posed by Occupy Houston and determine whether it had advocated overthrowing the US government. The FBI and the Department of Justice invoked the Bureau’s “general investigative authority” and its “lead role in investigating terrorism and in the collection of terrorism threat information” as a basis for its exemption from FOIA, but this did not convince Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

At no point does Mr. Hardy supply specific facts as to the basis for the FBI’s belief that the Occupy protestors [sic] might have been engaged in terroristic or other criminal activity,” Collyer wrote in an opinion that denied part of the FBI’s motion to dismiss. “Neither the word ‘terrorism’ nor the phrase ‘advocating the overthrow of the government’ are talismanic, especially where FBI purports to be investigating individuals who ostensibly are engaged in protected First Amendment activity. -Judge Collyer

Collyer gave the FBI until April 9th to provide a more detailed explanation for its exemptions, which the FBI can submit to the court under seal and can keep it sealed if the Judge chooses. Meanwhile April 9th has passed, Occupy Houston has knowledge of the latest information concerning the April 9th court date however out of respect for Shapiro, Occupy Houston has chosen to keep silent on the matter and awaits more information by Shapiro and his attorney which is soon to come.

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Occupy Houston’s One Year Anniversary at Houston City Hall
(Photo Credit: Burnell McCray)

OCCUPY HOUSTON CHOOSES TO FIGHT BACK

Upon learning about Shapiro’s lawsuit, activist of Occupy Houston began assessing the information that was pouring in by different medias all over the world. While Occupy Houston had little knowledge of the assassination plot in early 2012, the more recent information learned by activists forced several communicate and realize the importance of this issue. To be called a Domestic Terrorist and have knowledge that there was a true plot to assassinate, to literally murder individuals for practicing their First Amendment right, became very real for Occupy Houston. On March 19, 2014, Occupy Houston filed a FOIA request through the FBI concerning the assassination plot. On March 25, 2014, Occupy Houston issued its first formal statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Occupy Houston activists demand FBI release assassination plot details

We want to take a moment to thank everyone for your concerns regarding information released about the FBI’s knowledge of assassination plans that targeted key participants in our movement. These plots involved the execution of members of Occupy Houston through coordinated sniper fire.

We want you to know we are ok, we are not afraid, and we are not going to run from this. We, Occupy Houston, have launched a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the documents, and are awaiting a response before deciding our next moves.

Occupy Houston activists collectively stand together and have made it public that we are running our own investigation of the assassination plots after learning that the FBI not only had knowledge of these plots but actively refused to inform Occupy Houston activists of the details. These extremely suspicious acts lead us to question whether the plot(s) were a government sanctioned plot or that of an independent entity.

Let’s be clear: a terror plot such as this one put our lives in danger. The FBI has refused to inform us of the details. The FBI felt it was best to not only keep this imperative information from us but continues to heavily redact documents that would answer our inquiries. The FBI is actively shielding a vicious plan to murder us under the all-too-familiar guise of national security.

Throughout the time that Occupy Houston physically occupied Tranquility Park, it was made clear that the Houston Police Department, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the Houston FBI, Dept of Homeland Security, Austin Police Department (who infiltrated and set up Occupier activists from Houston, Dallas and Austin) and other government agencies were not interested in respecting peaceful democratic assemblies, and in fact they used the most undemocratic and violent methods to suppress our movement, here and all over the country.

We thank our supporters who have stood by our side since 2011. Occupy Houston has formally requested the documents as of March 19, 2014. We demand the FBI immediately release all information pertaining this case.

We would also like to thank MIT student Ryan Shapiro for his continued support and attempts to obtain these documents, which were previously denied by the FBI. Mr Shapiro, we appreciate your passion to stand up to government entities who work feverishly to defame and criminalize democratic movements that belong to us, the people.

On March 30, 2014, Occupy Houston collectively agreed to pursue information from local government agencies via TPIA to find out if local government agencies had any knowledge of the plot. March 31, 2014 an OPEN RECORDS REQUEST was emailed to the City of Houston, Mayor Annise Parkers office.  Occupy Houston requested “identifying information” that dealt with any document concerning Occupy Houston and the Mayor’s office. a little over a week later, Occupy Houston received a response from the Mayor’s Director of Communications advising “We have no documents responsive to your request.” (See email below)

On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 12:06 PM, Evans, Janice – MYR wrote:

*****,

We have no documents responsive to your request.

Thank you,

Janice Evans

Chief Policy Officer

& Director of Communications

Office of Mayor Annise Parker

However Mayor Parker’s office wasn’t being truthful. Twice in 2012, Occupy Houston was given information by the very same individual,  Ms. Evans, in response to TPIA requests. One of the requests answered by Ms. Evans gives Occupy Houston a PDF file that had attached documents concerning Occupy Houston in late 2011 through early 2012.  (See below email from  Ms. Evan’s obtained in February 2012)

From: “Evans, Janice – MYR”
Date: February 27, 2012 6:46:36 PM CST
To: **** *****
Subject: RE: Open Records

Mr. *****,
I received your payment today. Attached are the documents we are able to release at this time in reference to your January 30, 2012 TPIA. We also have documents ready from your February 10, 2012 request. I will be sending a cost breakdown for them tomorrow. Other documents are still being withheld pending an opinion from the Texas Attorney General. You were previously copied on the correspondence from our legal department regarding that.

Janice.Evans wrote:

Dear Mr. *****,
Sent via electronic mail to an******@gmail.com

Re: Your Texas Public Information Act request dated January 30, 2012 for All email correspondence, sent to and from the Office of the Mayor, on any publicly funded computer, or any other computer or electronic device that is used for official city business, that mention the following phrases:

“Occupy Houston ”
“Occupy Wall Street”
“Protesters”
” Tranquility Park ”

In response to your above-referenced request received by the City of Houston on Monday, January 30, 2012, the custodian of records has located 88 pages of responsive documents. The fee for these documents is $8.80 for the cost of making copies. See the attached sheet for a breakdown of the charges. You may send your check or money order payable to the City of Houston to my attention at P.O. Box 1562 , Houston , TX 77251 or you may bring the payment in the exact amount listed above. The documents will be released to you once payment is made.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact me by phone at (832) 393-0800 or by e-mail at Janice.Evans@houstontx.gov

Thank you,
Janice Evans
Director of Communications
Office of the Mayor

Why would the Mayor’s office tell activist that they don’t have any documents that was requested when two-years ago the very same Director of Communications sent Occupy Houston documents dealing with communications by the Mayor’s office concerning Occupy Houston? Could it be that Mayor Parker had knowledge of the assassination plot and is attempting to cover-up evidence? Parker’s office had received Occupy Houston’s official statement on March 25, 2014 which would give the Mayor’s office days to strategize on how to deal with the Occupiers if an open records request were to be made. Occupy Houston is working to gather more information and is interested in pursuing legal avenues concerning the denial of documents that come by our local government.

Several Occupy movements all over the country had been met by brutalities that came by local law enforcements in various cities. It was evident that Occupy was a threat to the 1%, local and national government, major corporations and banks. Occupy Houston activists were not engaging in plans to use any kind of domestic terrorism or violence. To date the FBI has made no arrests, no charges filed, have yet to identify the entity that wanted to assassinate key activists and what is most disturbing is that the FBI is working feverishly to protect an entity that wanted to kill peaceful protesters. It is troubling that our own government felt threatened by a group that have been making positive changes within the communities of Houston, Texas, shortly after their February 2012 eviction from Tranquility Park. While Occupy Houston moves forward to get answers, the situation that surrounds Occupy Houston should raise red flags about the FBI and all law enforcement entities tied to the government. For merely practicing your First Amendment Right: To peacefully assemble and freedom of speech, it is enough to get you killed, literally, and our government will do anything in their power to protect the assassins. Please stay tuned to the latest. You can reach out to Occupy Houston via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OccupyHouston or you can link to Occupy Houston’s website: https://occupyhouston.org/

(For more information on the FBI documents that was obtained by PCJF in early 2012, please see the link below. These are NOT the documents obtained by Mr. Shapiro or his attorney Jeffrey Light)

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/549518-fbi-ows-documents.html

Thanks:

Ryan Shapiro

Jeffrey Light

Burnell McCray

Vice Media

 

Credits:

Vice Media: https://news.vice.com/articles/the-fbi-is-hiding-details-about-an-alleged-occupy-houston-assassination-plot

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Shapiro

Occupy Houston Photos: Burnell McCray, Houston, Texas

Occupy Assassination Documents provided by Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) by FOIA request: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/549518-fbi-ows-documents.html

 

 

 

 

 

The City of Houston responds to homeless man ticketed for searching for food in a garbage bin

Mr James Kelly was issued a ticket last week for “Disturbing the contents of a garbage can in the downtown business district.” This is a story that has gone viral, worldwide. People as far as the United Kingdom, have expressed their outrage concerning the Houston Police Department and Mayor Parker. The community has rallied together to show support for 44 year old Kelly who has only been in Houston a short time when he was issued a citation. Kelly admits that there has been a few times that an unknown individual buys donuts and intentionally discards them into the garbage bin located at Herman Square Park, which is a public city park near City Hall. Kelly said he has been able to enjoy the donuts a couple of times and that morning, he was rummaging through the bin, in the hopes to find the donuts that this good Samaritan leaves behind. This is when Office Richards approached Kelly and issued the ticket that has the public in shock and upset with the city.

City of Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said he understands the public’s outrage but is defending his officer for issuing the ticket.

“I certainly understand the sentiments, but we still have to protect the homeless and we want them to be safe. There are certainly many places that provide food so people don’t have to dig through a trash receptacle,” said McClelland. He continues to say, “When someone is getting food out of the trash, it could be contaminated. We don’t want anyone to get sick or die.”

However, in early 2012, hundreds of citizens flocked to weekly city council meetings concerning the anti-food sharing ordinance where Mayor Parker and council members argued that they implemented the ordinance for food safety concerns. When Parker and council were asked repeatedly for evidence that would back up their claim, Parker and council admitted that there had been no testing nor reports that homeless fell ill due to inadequate food. If the city hasn’t initiated a test study on homeless who get sick due to tainted food by charitable giving, more than likely the city has not initiated test studies for tainted food left in garbage bins. The city’s excuse that they are concerned that the homeless will get sick or even “die” is just that, an excuse. It is election season where Mayor Parker looks to win her 3rd term. Any comment led by city officials concerning Kelly and this unknown garbage digging ordinance will result in the city acting like they are “concerned” however, actions speak louder than words.

Originally, the city had no comment the day following the public outcry concerning Kelly’s citation. After the city did some digging to try to save their image, they city came back stating that there was a charitable food sharing that was held downtown, around the same time that Kelly had received his ticket. But, how would Kelly have known about this food sharing? In meeting with the Houston Homeless Coalition last year, several advocates attended and asked specific questions concerning information hubs, that would certainly assist the homeless every day from where they can receive medical help, food, showers, shelters, housing but to date, the city has yet to set up these hubs in public places nor have they made these items available to homeless advocates and food sharing charities. How would Kelly have known that there was a food sharing in downtown Houston since these hubs have been denied to all involved? You would think that if Mayor Parker and the city leaders truly cared for the homeless, they would be working overtime to see that their needs are met in ALL WAYS. All these avenues have been brought up to the city in assisting the homeless and to date, Mayor Parker and the city continues to ignore advocates.

Days following the Kelly citation, the Houston Police Officers’ Union has stepped in and made a public statement.

Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said tickets for violations of the ordinance are written only in response to complaints that garbage has been removed and left outside of trash containers.

“I know on the face of it, it sounds very cruel,” the union leader said, stressing that most police officers would not cite someone for simply taking food from a dumpster.

“It’s not officers being inhumane,” Hunt said. “It’s police officers responding to citizens’ complaints about someone removing garbage from their garbage can, and leaving it on the ground. It’s creating a mess.”

It seems that HPD and the Union is working feverishly to clear themselves of their tarnished image. Citizens who may not be involved in activism or advocating for the less fortunate, may not be aware that there are already separate ordinances in place for the concern listed by Ray Hunt. Had Kelly littered after rummaging through the garbage bin, wouldn’t the citation indicate “littering” as well? Kelly has strongly implied that he never let a piece of garbage touch the ground and that he was merely sifting the contents when Officer Richards approached him. The citation was issued at 9:30 a.m. Kelly was located at a public park. It is safe to say that several people tend to leave garbage laying around the park area. In fact, littering was never the concern in this particular case. However, each time the city addresses the homeless, their top complaints are generally food safety, homeless getting sick and littering. For days, littering has not been a topic until Hunt steps in with a rebuttal to save HPD’s image while defaming Kelly’s.

The attack on the homeless is obvious. From anti-food sharing to citations issued to homeless who are simply looking for food. It seems as if Mayor Parker is not a fan of Houston’s homeless along with council members who stand by her and the Houston Police Department. This citation has citizens furious for two reasons: Bullying the homeless is a “no-no” and the citizens have never heard of the citation until Kelly’s story went viral. HPD and the City of Houston have both indicated that this ordinance is specific to the downtown business district which seems to include garbage bins in public parks, garbage bins and public parks which you and I, the tax payer, pays for.

A spokesman for the Houston Police Department said its officers issue several citations for violations of the ordinance on a weekly basis, while Gwendolyn Goins, spokeswoman for the city municipal courts, said city prosecutors estimate such CITATIONS ARE WRITTEN LESS THAN ONCE A MONTH. As it seems again, HPD is once again, twisting the truth.

Could Officer Richard’s issued a warning to Kelly and let him on his way? Yes. Officer Richard’s did not and since then, the city has been scrambling to point fingers on everyone but themselves. It is time that citizens recognize that fear breeds ignorance. For some reason, the city fears these homeless men and women who have fallen on unfortunate circumstances. This is why the city is working to safeguard themselves and the downtown district from the homeless. These are members of society left out in the cold streets in a city operated by leaders who refuse to appropriately handle their circumstances and would rather smoke them out of the downtown region by favoring the builders and corporate interest rather than working for the citizens of Houston in helping the homeless humanely. This is why 34,000 signatures petitioning the anti-food sharing ordinance went ignored by Mayor Parker. Each voting citizen should be asking themselves right about now, “Should I be voting for a Mayor a 3rd term who has blatantly attacked the homeless in this manner?” It is one very serious question each should be asking during election season. If Mayor Parker is capable of bullying a defenseless group, then she is capable of doing just about anything. It is like the bully who picks on the student in school who is bound to a wheelchair, considered special ed (by district standards) and cannot defend him/herself. Mayor Parker has proven to be no different.

Kelly’s court date is next month and is represented by civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen who has also been vocal in defending Houston’s homeless and fighting the anti-food sharing ordinance. I will continue to keep you posted as the story continues.

Homeless war veteran issued a citation for looking for food in a garbage can

“What?!?!” “How did that happen?” “Is that even a law?” “I have never heard of that ordinance!”

These were the responses I heard when I expressed my irate feelings over a local homeless war veteran, James Kelly, who was issued a citation for “dumpster diving” in downtown Houston days ago. As a volunteer of Food Not Bombs and HAP (Houston Advocate Program) my main interest consist of assisting the homeless in utilizing coats, blankets, toiletries and assisting individuals in cutting through the red tape they are often faced with concerning their benefits and more. Because these individuals are homeless, the city and county have a tendency to look down upon these men and women who just need a little help.

In working with Food Not Bombs, I met Mr. Kelly (who calls himself “Bear”) a while back. The first thought when you interact with him: he was a big teddy bear. He is well spoken, cares deeply for others and is highly intelligent. So it was to my surprise when I had arrived at the food sharing Friday night when Bear approached me with a pink piece of paper in his hand. He quietly asked if he could speak to me. We shuffled off to a remote area when Bear opened up a piece of paper, allowing me to read the text. I was appalled when I read the description, “DISTURBING THE CONTENTS OF A GARBAGE CAN IN THE DOWNTOWN CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT.”

Bear stated that there is an individual who purchases donuts and will intentionally discard a bag of donuts for the homeless to purposely find and eat. A gesture most likely done because the City of Houston has made it illegal for any individual or group to feed more than 5-people on public space without being fined up to $2,000 or could be arrested if one failed to comply. Mayor Parker and several council members passed an ordinance April 2012 which became law in July 2012, that made it illegal to feed Houston’s hungry without special permission from Mayor Parker. Months before the ordinance was passed by city leaders, hundreds of citizens flocked to weekly council meetings addressing their distaste and concern for the ordinance. One person after another was consistently ignored by Mayor Parker and Councilman James Rodriguez (District I) who once championed himself in stating, “treat our homeless with dignity, to be more efficient and to protect public property.” Rodriguez spearheaded the anti-feeding ordinance from start to finish with Mayor Parker in constant support of Rodriguez. The city indicated that there was a food safety concern then changed their concern to trash issues although Republic Trash Service had offered to pick up the trash at no cost to the taxpayer, as a way to show support for those who were AGAINST the food ordinance. There are also laws in effect for littering. Food safety concerns need not be pointed at caring individuals who work relentlessly on any given day to serve hot and healthy meals to those who are hungry, but the city should investigate Star of Hope Women’s shelter located on Houston’s east end of downtown. Star of Hope went on record at city council meetings offering their support FOR the feeding ordinance. Many would wonder if SOH cared so much for the homeless, then why would they support the feeding law? Simple: SOH is given funding in accordance with the number of people they serve, especially children. SOH loses funding if others around the city are caring for their needs. After investigating SOH Women’s shelter early 2012, food safety was my top concern as undercooked chicken, undercooked rice, expired can goods, day old bread and milk were served at the shelter. Several women and children would get sick shortly after eating their meals. I had even advised the Mayor’s office that the city needed to make an unannounced health inspection visit to SOH. To date, the Mayor has not responded to my inquiry after reciting my findings. Because Mr. Kelly’s story is gaining momentum and sparked an outrage among the citizens, Star of Hope’s Scott Arthur who is the Director of Public Relations went on record earlier today on 92 FM Houston News stating that many homeless do not utilize shelters because they do not want to adhere to rules and structure and that SOH is waiting by should the homeless need their help. However, this could not be further from the truth. Along with my investigation at SOH, it was disturbing to see so many homeless families mistreated by SOH volunteers and staff, almost treated like criminals. In bringing this matter to the attention concerning a few staff members who would act subservient and talk down to those in dire straights, I was met with finger pointing which positioned towards the homeless as if to say, they more than likely did something in order to be mistreated, snapped at, rudely spoken to and so on. Staff attitudes were not dealt with. SOH also tends to rely on “God’s work” in assisting the homeless as they hold weekly church services in their facility in which you either have to attend or one must get off the SOH grounds altogether, only being able to return after services are over. Seems hypocritical. Over and over again, many homeless stress that they do not utilize shelters because they are not only mistreated but made to feel as if they are not worthy of those things that make us feel special as a human being, and most of all, stripping their dignity. Star of Hope loses credibility as they should focus on their own issues rather than speaking of the homeless in this manner.

Moments after Mr. Kelly handed me his citation, I went to Facebook to express my outrage over the matter, requesting that we citizens assist him. Within minutes, Mr. Kelly had obtained civil rights attorney, Randall Kallinen. By Sunday afternoon, a copy of Mr. Kelly’s citation and story went viral. By Monday morning, media outlets were scrambling to get the story. The story was even listed on the Drudge Report. A story that has gained momentum and public outcry as the homeless continue to be targeted. It takes a soulless individual to pick on the less fortunate as we’ve seen Mayor Parker do in the last year. Even after the feeding ordinance became law, over 34,000 petitioned signatures were submitted to the city in the hopes to get the item on the November 2012 ballot & allow the citizens to vote however Mayor Parker dragged her feet and offered numerous excuses to why she would not get this done on time.

It is now election season as Mayor Parker is in the hopes to win her 3rd term. The dust seemed to have settled shortly after the petitions were continually ignored however today, the anti-sharing law is now the hot topic. If people are unable to freely give people food, then homeless will have to resort to looking in garbage cans in effort of finding something to eat. Now our homeless are targeted for doing that. At this point, one should question whether it is a good idea to have a mayor in office who can apply these kinds of laws on the homeless. As a political leader, that is about as low as one can go.

Federal lawsuit filed against the City of Houston concerning the Anti-Sharing Feeding Law passed by Mayor Parker & City Council earlier this year

The Christmas holidays are now over. Several groups have packed up and exited locations in the Houston area where several charitable groups stood for several hours on Christmas day, feeding hundreds of Houston’s needy. This season is much different than seasons in the years past. April 2012, Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker along with council members Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Wanda Adams, Ed Gonzalez, James Rodriguez, Mike Laster, Larry Green, Stephen Costello, Andrew Burks and Melissa Noriega voted in favor of the ordinance that has made it illegal for any one person or more, to feed 6+ people in need of food. Council members Helena Brown, Mike Sullivan, Al Hoang, Oliver Pennington, C.O. Bradford and Jack Christie voted against it.

To date, several Houstonians are in disbelief that this law is in effect. Many more are upset because Mayor Parker has refused to address the 34,000 signatures that were turned over to the City Secretary nearly 4-months ago. Several inquiries have been made to Mayor Parker concerning the petitions and each have been met with silence as Parker continues to ignore the citizens of Houston just as she and council did months before they passed the anti-food sharing ordinance. This year, any group including individuals who wanted to feed the homeless in the city, on public property and was to feed more than 5-individuals, had to do so with Mayor Parker’s written permission, permission that can take weeks to obtain. If you suddenly had the will to serve anyone in need of food and legally share your food, you would have to wait weeks or else face the risk of fines from $500 – $2,000 or even worse, arrest.

Fed up with the waiting game that comes by Mayor Parker’s office, Paul Kubosh along with his family, have filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Houston for violating their Constitutional Right to give, feed, etc. The First Amendment holds religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to peacefully assemble and so on in which this lawsuit would generally qualify under federal protection. Houston’s Civil Rights Attorney, Randall Kallinen, is representing the Kubosh family which also includes two high school students who are the son and daughter of Paul Kubosh. The teenagers expressed how blessed they were to have so much and unfortunately so many others do not have the same luxury. In turn, these students give up their free time to feed the homeless on many occasions rather than ignoring the needs of others. However because of this new law, the Kubosh family risks the same fines and arrests that has so many hesitant in giving.

After the law passed, several including myself, flooded city council meetings asking for Parker to respect our right to petition the law by having the city count and verify the signatures. Each council meeting was met with complete arrogance, distain for Houston citizens and without appropriate answers. Several requested that the city allow the voters be allowed to determine whether the law should be reversed. Mayor Parker bluntly said NO, citing that the city didn’t have time to count the signatures when in fact; the city had plenty of time to count and get the ordinance on the ballot. Media silence has since followed this issue. Press conferences have been called as media falls back on the issue. Parker & the city continue to ignore emails requesting feedback on the petition. Many question: Why would she do this?

Simply put, this year Mayor Parker is up for re-election. Parker is looking to save her image. Shortly after Parker survived criticism concerning the feeding ordinance, Mayor Parker was seen on the front page of a local newspaper with a smile on her face, as a homeless veteran stood next to her during a photo op and announcement that through homeless organizations in the Houston area, this vet now had a home. A great save to an unsettling muddy image of a Mayor who could be so heartless to wage war on defenseless hungry people. I expect to see further media blackouts where it concerns this ordinance and I am certain Mayor Parker will utilize the media at her disposal in an effort to wipe up all the dark spots she has concerning her image. While I am not the only person who feels as such, this is about as low as one could go as a politician, picking on the defenseless to satisfy the greed of others.

(Photographs by Burnell McCray)

Ask not what Houston City Council can do for you, but what you can do for them?

A woman receives a healthy meal by Houston’s Food Not Bombs who feeds those in need 4-times a week. (Photographer: Burnell McCray)

We have now entered over two-weeks since volunteers which include the local infamous Kubosh brothers, turned in over 34,000 petitioned signatures in effort to reverse the feeding ordinance passed earlier this year and became law as of July 1st. Since that point, some groups have dropped out from serving meals to the homeless. This means that other local charitable groups are picking up the slack and seeing an increase in the number of individuals fed. While doing this, these very same groups risk citation which the fine can vary from $500 – $2,000 or even be arrested if the person serving doesn’t comply with the law.

While attending these weekly council meetings held each Tuesday, 2:00 p.m. at City Hall, it has become apparent that Mayor Parker has no interest in what the public has to say. Time after time, Mayor Parker confuses her own words and the terms of the ordinance itself, nor has she given any real answers on how to obtain city permits or how long it would take to obtain these permits. The city itself doesn’t even have answers to the protocol for this law but they continue to arrogantly ignore our questions, ignoring petitioners, ignoring those of us who have relentlessly gone to council meetings each week in addressing our local leaders. It is very disheartening to see Mayor Parker writing her grocery list, laughing at comments being stated and whispering to council members to her right rather than to listen, look us in the eye and at least “act” like she carries some level of interest. However Mayor Parker is so withdrawn from the reality that she’s losing public interest in her political career and frankly, she does not care. The ice frozen over on her face is a clear indication that we are in for a hell of a fight.

Michael Kubosh advised council that their team was in receipt of additional petitioned signatures which were turned over to the City Secretary this week however she openly denied the additional signatures, refusing to deal with the Kubosh brothers. When the initial 34,000 signatures were handed over to the city secretary, one of her last statements was that they were here to serve the people but that no longer seems to be the case. In the least, they could have accepted the documents and the city legal team could dispose or count them however they choose. The city secretary chose to act as the legal team and deny voters the right to petition this law. Of course, Parker came forward with her usual excuses. Lying and exuse making seem to be her 2nd and 3rd passions in life.

In this same meeting, two gentlemen who have been recipients of the feeding addressed the council. The question was posed by Mr. Darnell, “How would you feel if the role was reversed? Why is it that you are doing this to us?” Council member Gonzalez quickly responded citing “food safety concerns” and saw to it that Mr. Darnell had a printed overview of what this law means. The city has yet to initiate any kind of research to prove that food safety is an issue. I have been very clear in prior articles how Food Not Bombs has always served healthy meals. To date not one person has come forward indicating any kind of illness due to inadequete food. I have also noted how several local shelters have served expired and uncooked food. It is no wonder why the choice is to eat meals that are hot, healthy but also served humanely. Many if not all the volunteers express the level of respect that is given by those who are hungry and those who are serving. There is no reason to dehumanize any individual because they are homeless. Having a home or a job does not make one person better than the other. There are several people who have jobs and homes however are monsters to society but are seen differently because they aren’t living on the streets. Society has conditioned us to think of homeless as dangerous, lazy, drunkened people who do not look to better their circumstances. Dangerous, lazy and drunkened people own homes as well. It is about time for the people to understand that we are all human and the only thing that truly separates us is the state of mind one carries.

We live in a country where Congress has an approval rating of 9%. People are not as trusting of leaders as once before. Local leaders are practicing the same behaviors: ignoring the people they represent & enabling special interest groups to run their way of voting. Council member Davis expressed two-weeks ago in the live and recorded council meeting that he had voted for the feeding ordinance because he followed the people he represented in District B which encompasses north Houston area. After not receiving responses to several inquiries made to his office requesting evidence that the people supported his vote, it was brought to my attention by several individuals who had been in attendence of these community meetings that either the ordinance was not brought up or if it had been, the voters were not in support of the law so this would prove that Jerry Davis while on record, openly lied about the very people he is supposed to serve and represent. Our leaders have been allowed feel inferior because what you don’t know, won’t hurt you. It is about time we hold the leaders responsible.

It is well known that Mayor Parker was not happy about the initial article I wrote via the Examiner which outlined the truth of the bill and facts behind the methods of those who voted for the ordinance and also naming examples of hypocrisy. Within a couple of weeks of the article, the Examiner nixed my writing credentials and expressed the reasons which later came out, that I was no longer allowed to write for them. Parker has taken some serious strides to keep this matter quiet. She isn’t favored upon with many local deocratic groups in Houston who have spoken out requesting the reversal of this bill. Mayor Parker continues forward, unaffected and basically does not care while finger pointing and blaming those of us who have overwhelming support of the voters in Houston by stating that we have not been telling the truth to the public of what this law is and what it means. Parker has even accused several of us in trying to impeech her from office. While it is my opinion that no person who could attack the homeless in this manner should not be in office, it is well known that my intentions along with the intentions of all others involved in this fight is that this bill is unconstitutional, they did make it criminal to feed over 5-people without permission from Mayor Parker and without that permission to feed on public space which we the tax payers own, these given volunteers who serve can be fined or arrested, just for giving a man, woman or child a meal.

We understand this fight over the ordinance is a redundant one, we cannot forget that food sharing with permission of the Empress herself is just plain wrong. The individuals who stand to make money from voting for the ordinance are the very same leaders who can be bought over and over again. At a time you bring something forward that you might be passionate about, ask yourself, can you really trust individuals who have received kick backs and monetary incentives to cater to special interest rather than serving you as the voter?

What to do now? Confronting Houston City Council

FNB Feeding Downtown Houston
Children eagerly wait to feed Houston’s homeless (Photo by Burnell McCray)

It’s that time again… time to start attending the weekly City Council meetings held each Tuesday at 2 p.m. 900 Bagby, 2nd Floor (Council Chambers) Houston, TX 77002. After turning in over 34,000 petitioned signatures requesting a reversal to the feeding ordinance passed last April, we are demanding that Mayor Parker & council act quickly in getting the ordinance on the November 2012 election ballot. Since the ordinance passed, as of July 1st it became illegal to feed more than 5-people on ANY property which includes public properties which we tax payers have and are paying for. In order to be allowed to feed, we must get special permission by Mayor Parker otherwise any given person who decides to feed more than 5-individuals can be fined $500 – $2,000 or even be arrested and jailed. Mayor Parker has been quick to blame the charity groups and several volunteers for misinforming the public. However when I openly asked Mayor Parker what she meant by misinforming the public, she never answered my inquiry. I also received feedback in that very same council meeting from Councilman Jerry Davis who serves District B (area surrounding Bush Int Airport) citing that he voted FOR the feeding ordinance due to community meetings held in his district where the public requested he vote as he did. When I personally requested evidence to back up his statement, he agreed to give me the proof I needed. An email was sent the following day to Councilman Davis’ office requesting feedback. To date, I have yet to receive a response from his office, not even an acknowledgement of my request. I feel it is important to hold members of council who fight so hard to be voted in office by us citizens they promise to represent, responsible for their voting methods. In this case, I would like to find out how Davis drew his conclusion on his vote. Did he fold by Mayor Parker who is known to strong arm members of council, did he adhere to special interest groups or is there a political career to be gained should he have sided with these corporations who stand to profit by this law? Council Woman Wanda Adams campaigned using the homeless issues as a way to gain voters by stating that she was going to tackle the issues and work to get the homeless properly cared for but if you were paying close attention in April, you would know Ms. Adams voted for the ordinance as well. A woman who prided herself in looking to help the homeless, holding that as a stepping ground for her campaign surely had no problem adding to the homeless issue. It is well known that Wanda Adams wants to continue her political career in the future. Could she have been bought by special interest groups in order to gain future campaign funding?

Politically corrupt antics will not work in the City of Houston as many volunteers from diverse groups via ethnic, gender, religious, political, sexual orientation, etc, have all come together to fight the city over this law. Houston Democrats are surely not satisfied with Parker. This is when Parker places blame on the individuals who have been vocal in the public. Mayor Parker has never been one who accepts blame for any wrong doing. Her arrogance is very real. Just attend a council meeting and disagree with her. This “my way or the highway” and victim role she plays is quite dramatic on her part and she fails to see that it is hurting her political career. She has even gone as far as to say several individuals have worked feverishly to have her taken out of office. She refuses to realize that it is by her own fault that her political career will crumble. In my opinion, anyone who goes as far as to attack the homeless then place blame on everyone rather than herself, does not deserve to represent Houston. Parker will be up for her 3rd term next year. The public has lashed out and openly revealed that she has lost their support. You would hope by now that Parker would take responsibility but even worse, now that she has the petition signatures, 34,000 voters, she bluntly told those in attendance last week at the council meeting that the ordinance will not make the November ballot. It only took volunteers a few weeks to count and validate the signatures. Why is Mayor Parker dragging her feet?

By now it is obvious that we’re up for a massive fight. Parker refuses to be defeated. The right thing to do should she truly care for the voters is to ensure the ordinance goes on the November ballot. Having over 2-months to do so could possibly save her political career. Unfortunately this would not please the special interest groups who would fund her campaign, as speculated. Activists and volunteers have vowed to attend weekly council meetings until the November election. Should Parker ignore the citizens a second time, then civil rights lawyers are preparing for a lawsuit against the city that would hopefully get an injunction against the feeding law.

All of this is well worth the fight of being able to feed those who want something as simple as a meal. You can help by attending the weekly council meetings. Even if you’re unable to attend each week, even attending and speaking up once is appreciated. This law is not a well supported by the public. Parker is aware of this but continues to ignore the 34,000 individuals who petitioned the law.

Along with the council meetings, there will also be a Community Charrette August 20 – 23rd. This meeting will take place at 9 a.m. in handling the homeless problems with Mayor Parker. The public is welcomed to join. The location is 6300 Irvington, Ste. 502 Houston, TX 77002. Meanwhile the homeless feedings have continued well after the law became effective July 1st and will continue to do so until this law is overturned. If you would like to get involved, please email freetofeed2012@gmail.com or feel free to attend council meetings and/or the Charrette.

Efforts continue to stop the feeding ordinance as 34,000 petition signatures are personally turned over to Mayor Parker’s office

A press conference was held on August 13th in the City Hall lobby as Paul Kubosh, Nick Cooper and Randall Kallinen address the media over new information surfacing over Houston’s unpopular feeding ordinance. Several volunteers feverishly counted and verified all the petitions signed by Houston voters. The results: 34,000 signatures gained. The Kubosh brothers were known for fronting the red light camera petition and was able to get the signatures needed in order to get the voters to make the final decision as the law was placed on a ballot. Voters had decided to have the cameras turned off. The feeding ordinance is now the hot topic. While the July 1st deadline to turn in the petitions of at least 20,000 signatures came and went, unable to meet that deadline, the effort is far from over. A handful of volunteers personally walked the 34,000 signatures and delivered them to the City Secretary.

As the press conference was held, it was obvious that our local media was MIA. Coverage of the events unfolding has been minimal although each media outlet such as ABC 13, Fox 26, Channel 2 News, KHOU 11 among other more visiable medias were nowhere to be found although invited to attend the press conference. Coincidence? It has been rumored that Parker has recently had local major media pulled from covering this all too important issue. Paul Kubosh reminded the public that this feeding ordinance is a grassroots effort. Individuals of various political background have come together to overturn this law. This ordinance is not sitting well with Democratic voters, the very same party Parker is representing. To silence any media from making Mayor Parker appear as if she is not serving the citizens, has been a key effort in keeping voters on her side. The “what you don’t know, won’t hurt you” theory is the game. However there are a a few remaining journalist who haven’t been intimidated or strong armed by Mayor Parker’s recent antics. At this point of Mayor Parker’s career, it is imparative for voters to know just who they are dealing with as Parker is up for her 3rd term come November 2013. Should the city employ a mayor and council members who seemingly bully those who are destitute?

Meanwhile, the feedings continue multiple times a week. Unfortunately due to the ordinance, other charitable feeding groups have dropped out from public feedings due to intimidation, as Food Not Bombs Houston volunteer Nick Cooper, expresses to the public while adding that the lines have quadrupled in size at the FNB feedings because the other groups fear the hefty $500 – $2,000 or even arrest. This means that more homeless will go without meals on a day to day basis because prior to the law, these groups worked hand in hand.

How can you help? Call the city office at 832-393-1100 and ask to get on docket to address your Mayor and council members. A meeting is being held today at 2:00 p.m. at City Hall: 900 Bagby Houston, TX 77002.

Houston's homeless are fed outside City Hall
(Photographer: Burnell McCray)

Mayor Parker continues to ignore questions & discussions over the new feeding law

Top photo: Dozens of people are fed a healthy & hot meal outise city hall after Mayor Parker makes it illegal to feed the homeless.
Bottom photo: Kids help feed the homeless as they prove that it’s better to give rather than to take away.
(Photographer: Burnell McCray)

“Illegal Feeding” continues in spite of Mayor Parker’s unpopular feeding ordinance passage. Houston’s feeding ordinance was voted on April 4, 2012 and became law as of July 1, 2012. What does this law mean? The ordinance prevents charitable feeding for more than 5-people otherwise those individuals who feed Houston’s hungry can be given a ticket which holds a fine varing between $500 – $2,000 or even worse, can be arrested. When dealing with Houston’s police department, no one person can ever know which way this will go. Some Houston officers have come forward and stated that even if ordered, they have no intent on giving citations or arresting citizens for feeding a hungry group. One officer came forward however asked that I give him an alias to prevent any backlash so we will call him Brandon. I openly asked Brandon whether he would arrest anyone who participated in charitable feeding: “I am a God fearing man. I go to church each Sunday. I morally cannot worship God then turn around and arrest a citizen for feeding people who are hungry.” While we know HPD has been looked at negatively in recent years, it is safe to say that many officers are beginning to step forward and take career risks over this new law. Brandon continues, “I am prepared to deal with whatever comes my way if that time should come but know that I will not side with Mayor Parker on this law. It is ridiculous!”

On July 1, after the law became effective, the feeding continued at downtown Houston. The evening of the feeding, over 140-hungry people were served a hot and healthy meal. Food Not Bombs is a nationwide organization focused on feeding those in need of a good meal. Several major cities have recently passed food ordinances that would prevent groups like Food Not Bombs from feeding those in need. The media was conducting interviews however as these stories ran on the late night news, a quick clip of the feeding was shown but certainly didn’t offer any real insight to the public. We would later learn that the media had been asked to pull back by the Mayors office and not cover these gifts of charity or what we call being humanitarian which Mayor Parker lacks. The second Sunday of the considered “illegal feeding” FNB counted over 99-people in the beginning stages as the line continued to grow. When one comes to a homeless feeding, you immediately notice women, men and children quietly standing in line, hesitant to smile, the look of concern in their eyes that they don’t want to be looked down upon. The fear of where they will sleep for the night clearly weighs heavily on their minds. As these hot, healthy meals were served I saw eyes light up, worries turn into smiles, laughter amongst strangers and most of all, a level of comfort in that moment that is indescribable. FNB isn’t like the Houston homeless shelters who shove religion on these individuals while dehumanizing them and citing rules that make these shelters feel more like prison. FNB truly makes an effort to show compassion, love, sharing and the will to take risks of arrests or citations. “I don’t know how the Mayor can live with herself,” says one homeless man who calls himself Frank. He continues on to say, “I don’t trust our people (city leaders) because they don’t care if we eat or not. If it wasn’t for these people (FNB) then I would not have eaten today.”

America used to be a free country and once cared about their fellow man. However little by little, we are seeing our city and national leaders take away basic human needs. Mayor Parker arrogantly points the finger at the those who oppose the feeding ordinance by stating that we wrongly convince individuals of the law by changing it to our opinion rather than what it really is. Interstingly enough, several people have openly asked her blunt questions about the feeding and Mayor Parker does the typical political stance: dodging the question and turning the discussion off focus. I personally would like to know when the last time it was that Mayor Parker literally took time out of her schedule to sit down and converse with a homeless man? I can guarantee you that if Mayor Parker doesn’t have something to gain, she will refuse participation or acknowlegment. It was back in January when Mayor Parker finally decided to visit with Occupy Houston. Sporting her neon yellow heavy weight coat, she definitely caught the eyes of several occupiers. However only those members who “looked the part” were allowed to bypass her security team and personally speak with her. I was lucky enough to be groomed that morning but some of my co-occupiers were turned away because they were in tattered clothing, their hair was messy and were not what she would consider a normal looking citizen. After spending nights on end at Tranquility park in protest of corporate greed over human need, these men as highly intelligent as they are, were not allowed to speak to their local leader. One must begin to wonder who she truly serves?

We activist had all come up with solutions for each issue that Parker and Rodriguez presented to the people. It was poor excuse making on Parker’s part. First it was a food safety concern, next was the trash problem and lastly it was a trespassing issue. Mayor Parker flip flopped more than a fish out of water and refused to listen to the voters. What really counts for Mayor Parker? I think the answers come by those businesses and local shelters who were given the ability to speak at city council meetings while Parker had the opposing citizens and groups against the bill, shifted to last on the council agenda in airing our grievances. Ask Mayor Parker about these special interest groups and what each of them stands to gain by passing such a ridiculous law. Ask yourself why it is that Star of Hope shelter so strongly supports the bill. I’m sure the CEO making over $200k annually has a lot to lose if his shelter loses people who are the reasons why these places receive astronaumical donations from various energy companies, the Bush’s, not to mention the money they save by the food donations only to serve the homeless undercooked expired foods that an animal wouldn’t even eat. But here is Mayor Parker, attacking charity groups who give from the heart. Not giving because they stand to make their $3,000 a week paychecks. So when you hear Mayor Parker give the public some bleeding heart speech about how unfortunate it is that us being the 4th largest city in dealing with the homelessness and how she is trying to rectify the problem, just remember, actions speak louder than words. She is only worsening the situation by creating this law. Parker has worked feverishly to quiet the media including myself as I was “released” from the Examiner a few weeks ago where a special call was placed to the higher authorities that had my credentials ceased immediately. It is no secret that Parker assumed my last article that focused on the feeding ordinance was more an effort to have Parker impeeched from office. As honored as I was to hear such a thing, I also thought it was pathetic that Mayor Parker thinks of herself as so worthy to waste such energies on such a heartless human being as herself. Parker, Adams (who campaigned and assured the public of her will to focus on the homeless problem. Nice job Ms. Adams. Way to handle the issue) and Rodriguez have all signed their own political death certificates back in April 2012. When you pick on the helpless, when you bully the meek, what could one expect? It is unfortunate that even as this last weekend passed, Parker continued to refuse to openly answer and discuss the feeding law while she attended Whole Foods on Kirby where the public was invited to have their 3-minutes with the Mayor. Parker.

I refuse to allow our corrupted politicians skate by without openly holding each one accountable. Her itty bitty arrogant eyes and fake smile is not intimidating to those of us who will continue to fight the city head on concerning this bill. The politics as usual is not working anymore. While many of us, occupiers or not, cannot make it to D.C. to implement change, we can start locally and spead it out. For now all we can do is make the public aware any way we can since such great actions to silence the media has been taken. Guess what Parker: the people are watching, the people care and some of us have the resources and all the time in the world to make the public aware of your wron g doings. It is time to take responsibilty.