A group of activists announced on Monday that they plan to sue the Southern California city of El Cajon after they were arrested this weekend for providing food to a homeless community in a local park.
At least a dozen members of the activist group Break the Ban were arrested as they handed out food and toiletries in El Cajon’s Wells Park on Sunday. Among those detained by police was a 14-year-old boy, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The group—part of a larger effort of around 50 people—were acting as part of civil disobedience to a local ordinance that banned the sharing of food on public property.
“It was absolutely necessary to break this law until they were willing to enforce it,” Break the Ban member Shane Parmely told the Union-Tribune. “Now that they have, we will continue this fight in court.”
City officials, however, insisted that the ban on food sharing is solely in response to a local outbreak of Hepatitis A and is in place for public safety.
“This isn’t a ban on compassion, and there is certainly no restriction or lessening of access to food,” El Cajon City Councilman Steve Goble explained. “This is about protecting the public, both those at risk, and those around them.”
At their Monday press conference, however, lawyers for those arrested this weekend vowed to file a lawsuit against the city’s ordinance within 10 days.
“It’s discriminatory against a vulnerable class of people. Plain and simple,” Attorney Scott Dreher said. “And on top of that, it abridges the First Amendment rights of the people who want to feed them.”
Nine of the people arrested face misdemeanor charges, a city official confirmed to Fox 5. Dreher claimed those charged will petition to have their citations tossed.
Break the Ban, which formed after the city’s ordinance against public food sharing went into effect, has also partnered with the Food Not Bombs activist group, which is hosting a solidarity event handing out meals and toiletries at the end of January.