McHenry's father was a ranger in the National Park Service, and his grandfather was a naturalist at the Grand Canyon. His grandfather would bring him to Hopi land to witness the annual "snake dance," where the men of the pueblo dance with snakes to worship their ancestors and pray for rain. "In the end... they'd go into the kiva again and get all the food that they made, all the bread and produce, and they'd come with these baskets and hand food up to every single person... My father and grandfather and my mom explained that this had all happened this same exact way at the same time of the year for 4,000 years," McHenry recalls.

He returned to the Grand Canyon in high school and watched the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, which plugged up the Colorado River near the ravine and formed the massive Lake Powell. "I went around in the area that became Lake Powell before it was flooded," he says. "It was really beautiful. There were 2,000 Anasazi homes that were flooded. A really beautiful sacred land that was destroyed for electricity."

An accretion of scenes like this added to McHenry's growing unrest. The Vietnam War raged on television. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, and McHenry and his family watched the race riots in Philadelphia. When he was in the fourth grade, his father gave him a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. He was overcoming dyslexia, so he looked for something shorter and picked up Thoreau's On the Duty of Civil Disobedience instead.

Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry being arrested for the first time, in San Francisco on August 15, 1988. He has counted 150 arrests since then.
Courtesy of Keith McHenry
Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry being arrested for the first time, in San Francisco on August 15, 1988. He has counted 150 arrests since then.
Marc Silverstein and Brian Sprinkle, who founded Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs in 2006.
Michael McElroy
Marc Silverstein and Brian Sprinkle, who founded Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs in 2006.

By the time he reached college, McHenry was a full-fledged activist, participating in a protest against tuition hikes in his freshman year. He wanted to be an artist. On what he remembers as a "crisp, cool, fall evening" in 1976, he and his friends at Boston University left a lecture by radical leftist professor Howard Zinn, who chronicled history as told by the oppressed. They had been talking in class about the construction of the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant, and Zinn was organizing protests against it. Four years later, McHenry and some other activists came together for a sit-in at the plant. A friend of his was arrested. To pay for the legal defense, the activists held a bake sale in Harvard Square.

McHenry, along with seven other friends, formed the core of what would become Food Not Bombs. Later, they rented a house at 195 Harvard St. to better plan their actions. McHenry says that he was one of the only members who wasn't dating somebody else in the group —and when couples broke up and quit the group, he remained.

Toward the back of Zinn's bestselling book, A People's History of the United States, he writes that "against the overwhelming power of corporate wealth and governmental authority, the spirit of resistance was kept alive in the early nineties, often by small-scale acts of courage and defiance. On the West Coast, a young activist named Keith McHenry and hundreds of others were arrested again and again for distributing free food to poor people without a license. They were part of a program called Food Not Bombs."

McHenry's phone rang at the café in mid-April this year. It was Phil Johnson, a coordinator of the Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs chapter. Johnson, a soft-spoken 20-year-old who left his parents' comfortable home in Weston to live in a messy collective house with a few other local members, told McHenry that the appeals court had just upheld Orlando's anti-feeding ordinance.

A few weeks later, McHenry visited Lake Eola Park with the sign and the Magic Marker. Food Not Bombs chapters around the state decided to hold monthly protests in solidarity with the Orlando chapter. On the day McHenry was arrested in Orlando, June 1, Johnson and friends were holding their first protest near Fort Lauderdale's City Hall.

Here, nobody went to jail, but uneasy battle lines had already been drawn between Food Not Bombs and the Fort Lauderdale police. In February, cops had shown up at the group's house, which group members call the "SWAMP Collective." (What that stands for is "up to interpretation," says Becker, "but at first, when we were publishing a zine, most people went along with 'Student Worker Anarchist Movement Press.' ")

Police entered the squalid, blue building in the residential neighborhood of South Middle River and patted down an assortment of traveling kids who had been hanging out on the roof. According to a police report, "In weeks prior... [we] had attempted to make several controlled narcotics purchases from this location due to complaints received." But nobody at the property sold them drugs or gave any sign of being anything other than messy, rebellious, and maybe drunk.

Still, police apparently harbor suspicions. After the "raid," as the residents call it, McHenry came through town on a brief visit. He slept in his van on the property, alongside Becker's broken-down, bumper-stickered old BMW. During the night, he says, he could see the flashlights of police officers trying to peer into his windows.


On a recent Friday afternoon, Johnson, wearing an oversized tank top, wire-framed glasses, longish blond hair, and a lion-cub goatee, was barefoot in the kitchen, picking raw onions out of a pot of greens that was supposed to be a stir-fry but now would be a salad.

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46 comments
FQS9000
FQS9000

Eat Do-Gooder should be REQUIRED to take 5 or 6 "homeless" people home with him so they can sleep, poop, barf and stink up their own lawn.  Fair is fair after all.

WorkingGuy
WorkingGuy

LOL Bukker = word police!  ;)

feeding the hungry is good, but teaching them to feed themselves would be better. 

Al they are doing is enabling poor to survive.  This is the low hanging fruit of the poor.

its kinda like a welfare program, when you give someone something you feel good, but haven't really helped or changed the situation.

so for the FNB people, they feel good that they feed some folks for a few days... but then what happens when they stop or move on?  how did you change the life of the poor?

how doing something to change the situation, like some skills training?

 

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

Would they arrest protesters if their signs read "Bombs not Food"? My guess would be no.

Bukkler
Bukkler

"The reason for the arrests? For years, residents near the park had complained that after the meals, homeless people disbursed into their neighborhood"Christ, do you people have any journalistic standards at all? I swear, you must be of the generation that believes that if MS Word doesn't flag it, it isn't wrong. "disbursed" means "Given funds, especially previously -allocated ones." The word you're looking for is "Dispersed", which means "spread out." God, the state of web-based journalism is miserable.

Ray Del Papa
Ray Del Papa

I wish we had more young people like those in FNB. To many are cought up in the miteralistic rat race. The more the disparaty betwwen rich and poor widens the more people will be put on the street. And who will help, not the goverment!

WorkingGuy
WorkingGuy

want to feed the homeless in Ft Laud?  Do it at Holiday park, not Stranahan park.

The homeless are NOT harmless.  They are aggressive, and swarm around cars at the light, looking for money. 

this in turn deters business, and tourist from coming to downtown, taking away commerce, and lowering those that do earn money,  incomes.

This is just another enabler of the homeless.  want to help, teach them a skill so they can earn their own food.

Sorry, no sympathy for food not bombs. 

Shaktas Na
Shaktas Na

Um...FNB is associated with a lot of training and social programs. In Sacramento they are affiliated with Fishes and Loaves.

So research before you speak. 

Bebep
Bebep

Like Nanook said, are you going to volunteer to teach them skills WorkingGuy?

Probably not, but if you do then you might be on to something.

Shaktas Na
Shaktas Na

Why don't you people actually contact a person at FNB and find out what other associations they work with? Every FNB is affiliated with skills and training programs.

Bebep
Bebep

Oh my god a typo!!!!! This is ridiculous!!!! That makes this article completely false and misleading!!!!

You're a disbursed douchebag Bukkler!

Stefan Kamph
Stefan Kamph

You're correct -- fixed. Ten judges with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals used "disbursed" as well (http://goo.gl/X9FRv), thus the mistake. Also, chill out.

WorkingGuy
WorkingGuy

How about Linux training?  what's linux you ask?  A computer language a lot of phones and computers use.  if you have those skills you can get a job.

smart people can still find a job.  low skilled people, are competing with china for jobs.. Education is the answer. 

Everyone has an opportunity to get smarter and earn good incomes.   

its up to you, how you choose to live your life... 

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

Suppose you become JoblessGuy? Somebody else's neighborhood is somebody else's neighborhood.

nanook5
nanook5

haters gotta hate.

as usual, you're perfectly willing to ignore the central conceit of fnb - no one has to go hungry in america. we produce more than enough for everyone, and your apathy to the waste amounts to denying food to the needy.

nanook5
nanook5

the minute enough people want to contribute to the point that full-time volunteers can afford to train homeless people on computers i'm sure we can get started.

are you intending on helping make that happen? no? ohhhh, so you're just one of a million people who criticize without actually contributing to help the problem in any way whatsoever. how surprising.

 
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