4th Street Mall: Metro Campers

The Metro Campers is a gathering of people that includes ANYONE willing to eat free food. Most of the Metro Campers eat at this location on Sunday afternoons. Many of the Metro Campers do actually live in the public streets, camping out in public. Some stay in shelters. Some are not "homeless". All come to eat because eating healthy food is important, and provides life-giving sustenance.

In 2007 Alfonso Hernandez joined the Metro Campers at the 4th Street Mall, supporting free food for hungry folks. Most of the food available at 1:30 on Sundays for the Metro Campers was organic produce--fruits and veggies. Trinity House (Catholic Worker) sent some of their bounty of food to the scene (meals or fresh raw food), while continuing to serve at Soldiers and Sailors Park during the summer and autumn of 2007. Some Metro Campers attended both scenes (at 4th and Copper and also at 13th & Central--S&S Park). Police harassed the folks sharing free lunch at S&S park that summer, at the instigation of neighbors. No crimes were ever committed at S&S Park, so the neighbors main fear was allayed, and the harassment stopped.
The free food continued unabated at 4th & Copper in 2008, 2009, and the first half of 2010. Trinity House was not involved in acquiring or delivering the food.
Leona Easley and her daughters helped deliver free pizza slices to the Metro Campers in 2008.
"The Pizza Lady" (Leona) started bringing out drinks and other items for the Sunday free lunch to the Metro Campers in 2009. All was well and happy. A new mayor (named Berry) was elected, and the police started harassing Metro Campers at 4th & Copper in mid-2010. See below for details.



The confusion between the Food Ordinance and the Food Code.


Come join the SHARING of free food: Sundays @ 1:30pm.
That's where you can learn more about further support roles and volunteering.


CHRONOLOGY of HARASSMENT

In August 2010 Alfonso was detained by Albuquerque Police (APD), and signed a citation that acknowledged the ALLEGATION that APD believes a business was being conducted without a license. Alfonso appeared in Metro Court three times, and will go back to court on November 17th for a trial, since Alfonso is NOT GUILTY of operating a business without a license. Many neighbors and supporters came to witness the free sharing of food with the Metro Campers over the next several weeks. Metro Campers continued to share food with each other at the scene.

On September 12th Alfonso was picking up trash at the scene (4th & Copper) around 2:30pm, and APD arrested him and Michael Herrick, who was videographing the scene on his mobile phone. Both arrests were unlawful. Both men were released within a day. Both were given court dates to enter a plea. Both will be at Metro Court on Sept. 27th 2010 to remind the court of their innocence, and the court will recognize the guilt of the APD.
See Link to video from Sept. 12th below


On September 19th another dozen supporters and legal observers were present between 1:30pm and 3:00pm. Almost 200 people were able to share food together. Four undercover cops showed up. A homeless girl, age 7, walked up and confronted them, asking them if they were cops and if they wanted some pizza. One of them was wearing a preposterous blond wig and they all had bullet-proof vests clearly visible under their shirts. The cops waited till everyone had eaten lunch, then picked out just two volunteers/copwatchers (both with cameras) and asked the two to walk a few steps away to Central. At the police car on Central, the two civilians refused to sign and accept their citations, and one refused to provide his name. The officer (Sgt. Armijo) conversing with the two men had a half-dozen cameras trained on him as he wrote out the criminal trespass citations. One recipient of a trespass citation was Ben Abbott of Albuquerque CopWatch, Food Not Bombs and the Center for Peace & Justice. The other recipient is also a member of CopWatch and a Catholic Worker community. Here's two shots from Sept. 19th:
<---Backside of undercover cop... Citations for two copwatchers--->




On September 26th more supporters and legal observers were present between 1:30pm and 3:00pm. Again over 100 people had lunch. Sgt. Armijo of the APD stopped the same two men they cited the week before, and promised to send both dudes copies of their citations in the mail, while offering them no papers today. These two missed the meal entirely, because of the police intervention.
Upon receiving their citations in the mail, the two CopWatchers went to court in mid-October, pleading NOT guilty, and therefore...
they both go to trial soon. SEE TRIAL DATES SUMMARY BELOW


FROM STEVE TAYLOR: "The City actually considers this [4th Street Mall] to be private property since they have "leased" it to the Downtown Businessman's Association. Often the APD,etc. that show up on Sundays to hassle the various food providers have actually turned out to be "off duty" when the issue is pressed. And, there are other tales of intrigue, as well.... One thing is clear. The charges are "trumped up", and they can easily be beaten in court, but only if an honest and competent attorney represents the good guys!"


Oct 3, 10 & 17 : No police presence and no harassments/interference from interlopers. All is well for the free lunch these weeks! HOWEVER, during this time, Jennifer inadvertently found out that she had been cited (APD gave her no notice of citation) and had an arraignment on October 24th at MetroCourt.


OCTOBER 18th: City Council Meeting--a dozen supporters of free food outdoors speak in the open-mic at the beginning of the meeting: 5:30pm. It was very good. Councilors took note and sympathy is for free food rather than APD.

On Nov. 15th: Alfonso receives this letter:
.
RIGHT CLICK to see the picture in full-size/legible mode.
The summary of the above letter is this:
Alfonso asked for clarification on the Food Sanitation Ordinance (2010) vs. the Food Code (2009). Adelia Kearny, Donna Griffin & Lorie Stoller have spoken with Alfonso regarding these issues. The Consumer Health Protection Division of the Environmental Health Department (CHPD) is responsible for making sure that the City and APD enforce both the Food Code and the Food Sanitation Ordinance. Whenever the two things (the Code of 2009 and the Ordinance of 2010) are in conflict, then the Ordinance trumps the Code. Otherwise, both things apply at all times--food handlers must comply with both the Code and the Ordinance. The Food Code is available for public viewing in person at the City Clerk's Office.



On November 29th, Alfonso & his attorney went to court for a trial. The Police (prosecutors) asked for a continuation in order to put a case together (because they'd like to win the trial and have the judge find Alfonso guilty). The judge agreed to the continuation--January it is! SEE TRIAL DATES SUMMARY BELOW

On December 10th the Albuquerque Journal plans a long story, based on the complaints filed against Officer Leah Kelly, Officer Jennifer Jara, Officer Steven Lowell, Sgt. Louis Armijo, and two unidentified officers. See Mike's Complaint and Jennifer's Complaint


SEE DEEPER HISTORY







What WebPages Hold Further Info?

(Sept. 12) MobilePhone Video (Sept. 12) of Michael & Alfonso minutes before arrests.
(Sept. 12) That Same video with transcripts as shown by KOB News. (Includes Officers Kelly, Jara & Kukowski).
(Sept. 13) KOAT News clip of Alfonso at home with truck & trash.
(Sept. 13) Other news clip of Alfonso talking to media.
(Sept. 14) Radio Interview with Public Safety head Darren White
(Sept. 15) ALIBI story on CopWatch--including knowing your rights as onlookers
(Sept. 16) Rene's Letter To The Mayor on this issue
(Sept. 19) Jacki's shot of Pickles For Freee before Ben/Derek receive citations.
(Sept. 21) KRQE News clip on City Council and CopWatch oversight of police activities.
(Oct 6) KOB News clip of Hernandez at City Council meeting showing how the APD was inhumane to him.
(Oct 10) KIVA radio interview with Copwatchers & FeedersNotBombers, two who go to court just a few days later.
(Oct 14) Albuquerque Journal STORY about the "Metro Campers Fruit Stand" with quote from Mike Herrick
(Oct 18) City Council Meeting Public Comments: part 1
(Oct 18) City Council Meeting Public Comments: part 2
(Oct 18) City Council Meeting Public Comments: part 3
(Oct 18) Editorial From ABQ Journal
(Dec 10) ABQ Briefs Re: Police Complaints
(Dec 16) IndyMedia CH27 Show w/ Michael & Jennifer










Some below are TRIALS, HEARINGS, and other COURT APPEARANCES:
NAMECOURT DATECHARGE(s)OUTCOME
Alfonso Hernandez11 January (9am)1=Soliciting without a Business License,
2=Resisting/Obstructing/Refusing to Obey APD,
3=Trespassing
CONVICTED; appealing in District Court on March 29th
Ben Abbott 12 January (9am)Trespassing CONVICTED; but plea bargained into innocence after 30 days of good behavior
Jennifer Gage12 January (9am)1=? continued 'til March 7th
Michael Herrick24 January (9am)
1=Trespassing,
2=Failure to Obey APD
.
Derek Minno-Bloom 24 February (2pm)Trespassing "Continuance" for 90 days; if no law-breaking by May 25th, then charges dropped.



REMEMBER: police officers have no REAL authority to ISSUE orders, except in narrowly defined circumstances involving situations such as drug dealing and brandishing weapons in front of cops. Since there was no imminent threat, etc. , each officer lacked the authority to issue the order: "do not return here". ALSO: there can be no valid order not to return to a public place. Such an order would be an unconstitutional abridgment of a the right to travel that USA citizens hold.
















Outdoor FREE FOOD in ABQ: Historical Summary

The bottom-line is the discomfort that people feel seeing hunger and poverty OUTSIDE. Police power primarily harasses the scenes of free food sharing OUTSIDE, and it happens EVERY year whenever there is consistent service. Sometimes it's the police/city policies; other times it's neighbors, or neighbors enacting the police threats. The arguments to stop sharing food which come from the police, neighbors and city employees are usually three:
  1. Folks providing food have NO food-handling permits from the City/County and NO licensed, commercial kitchens involved in the food prep.
  2. The food sharing events are on City property without City permission--a public event permit is needed from the City.
  3. The sharing of free food creates garbage/litter, and encourages other crimes to occur.


In the 1990s, Brother Ralph DiPalma began sharing free breakfast via a church in one area of Albuquerque. The City forced Bro. Ralph's program to move to a new location, then to another, and eventually shut down the church. Finally, at Coronado Park (a.k.a. "Train Park", currently a.k.a. "skate park") Bro. Ralph's people made their stand, diminishing from daily meals to only once/week, ready to risk arrest if need be. The police and city inspectors caved in when lawsuits against the City were presented, and Albuquerque's City gov't/APD left him alone.

Between 2000 and 2001 at Central & 1st, and in 2002 at Iron & 2nd, the APD periodically harassed (but did not arrest) Feeders Not Bombers sharing food under the auspices of Food Not Bombs (FNB). Between 2003 and 2005 FNB also shared food at Roosevelt Park (on Coal @ Sycamore), and at special events in the downtown Civic Plaza. Most instances of sharing free food at Civic Plaza lead to police harassment.

In 2006, neighbors around Robinson Park (a.k.a. "Triangle Park") convince Trinity House Catholic Worker to move out of the park and serve elsewhere. Trinity House moves for the Summer a block away to Washington Mid-School park. In September '06, Trinity House returns to Robinson Park, consistently offering portable toilet service in addition to free lunches on Sundays, to answer neighborhood complaints that folks eating free food have no toilet access and eating food helps create digestion of food which leads to the need to defecate. Neighbors are unwilling to open their homes to folks who need toilet access.

In July 2007 APD physically stops Trinity House from serving free lunch at Robinson Park, so lunch continues in private parking lots less than a block away. By August, Trinity House moves the 1pm lunch to Soldiers And Sailors Park--5 blocks away and attendance drops dramatically (from 90 people to 30 people). Alfonso brings fresh food to the Metro Campers at 1:30pm @ 4th Street Mall, to help keep the food flowing in a larger crowd. Police harassment stops at Soldiers And Sailors by November 2007. Free lunches there move into the basement of Immaculate Conception Church (one block from Robinson Park) in November 2008.

In 2009, the State of New Mexico's Environmental (health) Department (NMED) warns Feeders Not Bombers who share lunch in front of UNM's Bookstore (across the street from the Frontier Restaurant) at Cornell & Central that they will have to pay a fine of $500 for every lunch shared there. Several times they return to warn FNBers to quit or pay fines. NMED files papers with the court, and UNM and NMED hold a few meetings with FNB. FNB increased the service from 2 days per week to 3 days per week at this time. Police do not stop the program, which continues to this day. In 2010 the frequency returns to 2 days per week. FNB also conducts two food sharing events at the downtown Civic Plaza in 2009 and 2010, where the City's Environmental Department sends representatives to tell hungry people to not eat the food and to tell FNB to stop sharing the food--using the argument of no permits from the Environmental Department.

In 2010---see above.





WHO HAS MORE INFO? What Can We Do?


We can write letters to the editors of newspapers. We can directly support free food for hungry folks by joining the scene with the Metro Campers on Sundays @ 1:30pm at 4th & Copper. Backup plans are being formulated for a backup location for the Metro Campers to enjoy sharing free food, should APD continue its harassment and push the free food service away from 4th & Copper.


If you have photos and stories to share, send them to < tnaATcatholicworkerDOTbiz > (but replace "AT" with "@" and "DOT" with ".")
You can also call Trinity Nuclear Abolition: 505.242.0497









Catholic Workers and Mennonites SUPPORT the safe, healthy delivery of safe, healthy food to metro campers.