An ungovernable force? Food Not Bombs, homeless activism and politics in San Francisco, 1988--1995

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Title: An ungovernable force? Food Not Bombs, homeless activism and politics in San Francisco, 1988--1995
Author: Parson, Sean Michael, 1981-
Abstract: This study examines the interaction between two anarchist support groups for the homeless, Food Not Bombs and Homes Not Jails, and the city of San Francisco between 1988 and 1995. Food Not Bombs provides free meals in public spaces and protests government and corporate policies that harm the poor and homeless. Homes Not Jails is a sister group of Food Not Bombs that opens up unused houses and government buildings to provide housing for homeless residents. During the period 1988-1995, two mayors, progressive Art Agnos (1988-1991) and conservative Frank Jordan (1992-1995), mass-arrested members of Food Not Bombs for distributing food in city parks without a permit, handing out over 1,000 arrest and citations to members of the group in that eight year period. While squatting would seem to be a graver offense than distributing free food, Homes Not Jails was treated far more leniently by city officials during the Jordan administrations. I trace the difference in treatment of the two groups to the fact that Food Not Bombs engages in anarchist direct action in public space, while Homes Not Jails does so in private residences. The public nature of Food Not Bombs made them a visible threat to order to both Agnos and Jordan and one they had to confront and stop. While both mayoral administrations persecuted Food Not Bombs, they treated the organization in different ways, which derived from different conceptions of the cause of homelessness. Agnos saw homelessness as a result of structural inequalities and economic conditions and viewed state welfare programs as the only way to address the problem. In response to Food Not Bombs he tried to incorporate them into the broader charity apparatus of the state, and when that failed he used the police to force them into "negotiated management" with the city Jordan saw homelessness as a criminal and public safety problem and wanted to use the police to clean and reclaim the city for wealthier residents and tourists. Jordan saw Food Not Bombs as a threat to public order and tried to use his police force to exclude the group from public space.
Description: x, 200 p. A print copy of this thesis is available through the UO Libraries. Search the library catalog for the location and call number.
Date: 2010-09

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