by Diana Nelson Jones/Sept 23, 2009
When Everybody's Kitchen and Seeds of Peace set up in a private parking lot in my neighborhood yesterday, you'd have thought we were being invaded by Martians. Chat on the neighborhood web site alluded to 911 calls and comments of how this caravan of young people making food for protesters would be a hassle at best and a nightmare at worst. The police showed up, and the ACLU had to be called.
The police have run these volunteer food-distributing groups several times during their short stay here. And some of my neighbors think that's OK. Some think the church that gave the group permission to use its parking lot is a bad neighbor. As for me, I am heartened that a church is acting socially appropriate. These volunteers are among the good guys. They have taken their buses and beat-up cars and bicycles to do relief work after hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina, said Amy, a member of Everybody's Kitchen and a resident of New Orleans.
I met Amy this morning in the
off-leash dog exercise area. She had three dogs and I knew she was from this group because I recognized the little Basset hound mix from a photo in today's paper. After she entered the park she headed to where one
of the dogs was pooping and scooped it up in a blue bag.
She told us the police attention has been over the top. One car delivering meals failed to use a turn signal and six police cars swarmed around it. Later, over in the parking lot, I met Ben, who said he was asked for an ID and questioned about it being from out of state.
"Isn't this America?" he asked. "Aren't there more than one kind of ID?"
Maybe this is how far we've come toward abetting violations of our civil authorities -- that we would think people who volunteer to feed others and look different than we do are scary. "They think we're terrorists," said Amy, and I thought instantly that this situation would be a great plot for an episode of "The Twilight Zone." (You have to be old enough to remember that, sorry.)
Some people have let the G-20 build-up take over their sensibilities and gone from being their usual overly perturbed to straight-out fantasizing. Some neighbors suggested animal control be called because the dogs appeared to be in bad shape. If they had pet the dogs, they would have felt how shiny their coats are. This morning, the dogs were romping happily in the park, well-adusted and well behaved.
In the parking lot, the food smelled great, and everyone was scurrying around ladling it out, laying table cloths, stirring food on the stove that's set up in one of the buses. Nearly everyone in the group was tattooed, some had dreadlocks and the smell of patchouli reminded me of post-hippie college parties I attended.
The new hippie is like the old hippie, both in how he looks, what he believes in and by how the middle-class mainstream reacts to him. People who grew up in the '60s should have perspective, but it is they who are acting the way 1960s-era parents did -- scared of social activism.
You are on the fringes when society looks askance at your activities even if they are lawful. These groups are here with the permission of the land owners, making food to contribute to a cause that many think is worthy, protest being the founding American art form.
If the police have the leisure to dog groups such as this, we must have more than enough law enforcement for the G-20.