For the past six years, volunteers from Love Wins Ministries frequented Moore Square in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturdays and Sundays to give out hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich to those in need, according to the church group's website.But not anymore, apparently:
"An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested," the Rev. Hugh Hollowell wrote on the group's website.Why? There’s an ordinance about using the park:
The Raleigh police were there to enforce a city ordinance that bans the distribution of food in any of the city's parks, ABC Raleigh, N.C., station WTVD-TV reported.But…
While the group said it was aware they could not use the park itself, they had set up on the sidewalk for the past six years without issue, their website said.I guess we can assume that the ordinance doesn’t include the sidewalk, since they’ve set up there for six years with no problems. At least until now.
Even the police seem reticent to explain what’s going on:
"No representative from the Raleigh Police Department was willing to tell us which ordinance we were breaking, or why, after six years and countless friendly and cooperative encounters with the Department, they are now preventing us from feeding hungry people," Hollowell wrote.And when the police did make a statement, it was less than forthcoming:
"People were simply informed the ordinance prohibits the kinds of actions some groups have been engaged in at the park," [Raleigh Police Department spokesman Jim Sughrue] said.’Some groups’. Which groups? I don’t think Love Wins is part of ‘some groups’ simply because for the past six years, they haven’t been part of ‘some groups’ because obviously, they haven’t been violating the ordinance – they would have been warned a long time ago if they had.
Or would they? The article doesn’t say, but there could be a couple possible reasons for this: overzealousness on the part of a new police officer; the same for a new council member or mayor; complaints filed by citizens. Could be a lot of things.
Or maybe it’s money:
[T]he group learned it would need to apply for a permit to use the park, which costs $800 a day, their website said. (emphasis mine)Which I will assume they hadn’t paid in the past six years because, well, they weren’t using the park, just the sidewalk outside of it.
And maybe that’s why the police don’t seem eager to explain what happened. After all, if someone ‘accidentally’ expanded the term ‘park’ to include the sidewalk without, you know, actually including that language in the ordinance …
There’s obviously more to this story, folks; maybe in the next couple days/weeks we’ll hear about it. In the mean time, I’ll stick with my theory of overzealousness coupled with greed.