WATCH: Atlanta Police Suddenly Enforce Old Law and Hand Out Tickets to People Feeding The Homeless

Every Sunday, like clockwork, activists Adele Maclean and Marlon Kautz distribute food to the homeless at a public park in Atlanta. But when they went out to deliver food the Sunday before Thanksgiving, taking part in a longtime American holiday season tradition, local police ticketed them for violating a county ordinance that requires a food distribution permit.

Atlanta is in Georgia’s Fulton County, which has long had a policy on the books that requires organizations that distribute food to obtain a permit before doing so. Local authorities have in the past turned a blind eye, according to groups that feed the homeless in different parts of the city. Last week, however, that changed.

Atlanta police officers told charitable individuals that they can no longer feed the homeless without applying for and receiving a permit. Georgia State Police also distributed a flyer, produced by Atlanta’s Department of Public Safety, about the enforcement of a county ordinance that requires permits for the “operation of a food service establishment.” According to the flyer, enforcement is necessary for sanitary reasons and because “many people become dependent on these activities, leading them to stay on the streets instead of seeking the help and support they truly need.”

Maclean and Kautz, who are activists with a group called Food Not Bombs, are due in court next month on the charge of violating the county ordinance. Maclean provided a copy of her ticket to The Intercept, which we have redacted to conceal her home address:

Kautz described the situation to Atlanta’s Channel 2, which was filming when police issued the citations. “I mean, outrageous, right? Of all the things to be punished for, giving free food to people who are hungry?” he said.

Atlanta Indymedia was present when police officers told other Food Not Bombs volunteers that police will start to enforce the county’s rules on food distribution, and captured the exchange on camera.

Some of those participating in food shares responded to the city’s warnings by relocating. “We have two 30-foot trailers full of stuff and we’re ready. We’re going to go to one spot and if we get run off, we’ll go somewhere else and if they run us off, we’ll go somewhere else until we hand everything out,” Frankie Holbrook, who runs street ministries and feeds the homeless, told Fox 5.

Having once been homeless himself, Marshall Rancifer, the founder and outreach director of the Justice for All Coalition, has spent 17 years working with Atlanta’s homeless. He told The Intercept that resources to feed the homeless are especially limited over the weekend, when shelters are packed, making street feeding often the easiest way to get food to the population.

On November 11, after he finished distributing food at Hurt Park, he saw Georgia State Police officers stop others from doing the same, he said.

“I stepped forward and told them they couldn’t stop people from feeding people in the park. That was people’s God-given right to take care of each other,” Rancifer said, recounting his conversation with the officers. He said they didn’t ticket him but gave him a warning.

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Filming Cops
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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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