12 charged after passing out food to homeless people - WNEM TV 5

12 charged after passing out food to homeless people

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About a dozen people were arrested Sunday evening in El Cajon, California for feeding the local homeless population. (Source: 	KUSI via CNN) About a dozen people were arrested Sunday evening in El Cajon, California for feeding the local homeless population. (Source: KUSI via CNN)
About a dozen people were arrested Sunday evening in El Cajon for feeding the local homeless population. (Source: KUSI via CNN) About a dozen people were arrested Sunday evening in El Cajon for feeding the local homeless population. (Source: KUSI via CNN)

(Meredith) – Police arrested 12 people for feeding the homeless at a public park in California, according to multiple reports.

A group called Break the Ban organized the event on Sunday to protest a new ordinance in El Cajon that prohibits the distribution of food on city-owned property, the San Diego-Union Tribune reported.

Protestors who violated the new law, including a 14-year-old boy, were detained, given citations for misdemeanor offenses and released.

City officials said they passed the emergency ordinance in October to prevent the spread of hepatitis A, but critics have called it a punitive measure to criminalize the homeless.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells told NBC San Diego the city’s public park is a hot-spot for the virus, which has infected more than 500 people in the county. He said most of those people are homeless.  

"What frustrates me is that it's being portrayed as a heartless act of a city that has no compassion for the homeless,” Wells told the station. “I couldn't disagree more."

The advocacy group vowing to fight the ordinance said it shouldn’t be a crime to feed vulnerable people in their city.

“If I’m going to be arrested for something, let it be for feeding the homeless,” Matthew Schneck, who was cited Sunday, told NBC San Diego. “I’m not going to apologize for doing the right thing."

Break the Ban said it will continue to organize food-sharing events in the future.

An attorney representing the 12 people cited plans to file motions to dismiss the misdemeanors.

Click here to read more about the city’s “food-sharing” ordinance

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