Normally, it might be considered an honorable thing to feed the homeless. But instead of getting a pat on the back, Adele MacLean got a ticket.
MacLean was prepared to argue her case before an Atlanta Municipal Court judge Thursday morning, but before the hearing, she learned the city dropped the charge against her.
This came after a Georgia State University police officer gave her a ticket in November when she refused to stop distributing food to homeless people in downtown Atlanta's Hurt Park.
MacLean says the officer told her it's illegal to give food to the homeless without a food service establishment license. The university cited an Atlanta city code that adopts rules of the Fulton County Board of Health, saying it’s a food safety issue.
The GSU police chief said in a statement, "Those who feed outdoors with no facilities, sanitation, food safety to prevent food borne illness, and no order create serious issues as hundreds gather for a meal." The chief also said groups who have an event in the park without a permit that include more than 75 people are violating Atlanta's large-gathering permit process.
MacLean is an activist with a group called "Food Not Bombs," an organization that protests war and capitalism by feeding the homeless. The group also has made headlines in other cities for feeding the homeless without a food permit.
As MacLean dealt with her case Thursday inside the courthouse, fellow activists gathered outside, giving away free food as a way to protest what was happening. Atlanta police officers chose not to ticket the protesters.
The Southern Center for Human Rights represented MacLean. Attorney Gerry Weber said the ordinance cited by GSU's police department is weak.
“What we’re asking for is a clear statement from the city of Atlanta and the Georgia State police that individuals have a right to feed homeless in public places,” Weber said.
Until then, the activists plan to continue feeding the homeless as a challenge to the law.
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