For many, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend was a chance to reflect on privilege, and to give back to our communities and those less fortunate. But one man's attempt at performing a kind act ended in an arrest. Matthew Schneck, a high school government teacher, was part of a group of people who were arrested Sunday evening for feeding the local homeless population at a park in El Cajon, California, a suburb of San Diego.
While the arrests may sound shocking, they weren't unexpected. The city had recently enacted a new ordinance that bans citizens from feeding homeless people in public, and what Schneck and the others did was an act of civil disobedience in the name of Martin Luther King Jr.
Despite the arrests, the group calling themselves Break the Ban plans on doing it again in two weeks.
Schneck shared his notice to appear citation, charging him and the 11 others with two misdemeanors, one for food sharing in a public place, and another for failing to comply with a city ordinance. "Today I got arrested for feeding the homeless in Wells Park in El Cajon," he said in the tweet. "The City of El Cajon has made it illegal to share food with homeless people."
He then shared a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., which states: "...One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."
Today I got arrested for feeding the homeless in Wells Park in El Cajon. The City of El Cajon has made it illegal to share food with homeless people. https://t.co/6BZzjSxKnL— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 15, 2018
“...One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” —Martin Luther King Jr. pic.twitter.com/YTqCxOIRWb
According to the city, the ban was put in place in October to curtail the spread of Hepatitis A. But attorney Scott Dreher says that's not the whole truth.
Dreher told NBC San Diego:
It was really a disguise. People were complaining homeless people will come to the park if you give them free stuff."
Those just finding out about the ban and the subsequent arrests were up in arms:
It’s not a ticket. It’s two misdemeanor charges ...— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 16, 2018
No they made exceptions for those and birthday parties. Just don’t feed the homeless. 🙅🏻♂️— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 16, 2018
To prevent the spread of Hepatitis A. If that really were the case, the City would have bathrooms open in the park so people could wash their hands...— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 15, 2018
California. This took place in El Cajon, a suburb near San Diego.— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 16, 2018
Some people felt the ban was justified, but they were quickly shut down:
Except it's not. Homeless people are not animals. Public parks are for ALL people. And know what people do when they don't have enough to eat? They look in the trash for food. Know what also is in the trash? Feces. Know how Hepatitis A spreads? Fecal-oral contact.— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 16, 2018
Anyone Thinking that human beings are like ANIMALS & should be treated as such because they don't have homes needs to GTFO of the universe.**— Lisa G. (@InvisibleOrchid) January 16, 2018
Except bears aren’t people? Homeless people should not be compared to animals. JFC 🤦🏻♂️— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 16, 2018
A few people had a pretty ingenious idea to get around the ordinance:
With more than a couple of dozen people, you'd have someone with their birthday within a week of any given day, on average.— Nigel Tolley #FBPEU (@discreetsecure) January 16, 2018
That is a genius idea! Daily birthday parties. Utter genius— manifest&beblessed✌#FBPE (@kcladyboss1) January 16, 2018
But Schneck reminded everyone that they aren't looking for a loophole. They want the ordinance to be repealed:
Probably, but the point isn’t to find loopholes in the law. It’s to get it repealed. The arrests are already causing outrage on social media. We hope it pressures the City Council to repeal it and warns other cities. Civil disobedience is alive and well this MLK weekend!— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 15, 2018
But he appreciated the support just the same:
Glad to see so many people are outraged at the inhumane ban on feeding the homeless in El Cajon. Could you please take a moment to tweet your thoughts to @CityofElCajon and call/email Mayor Wells your thoughts on this unjust ordinance? Break the ban! https://t.co/mRAVnp4DWr— Matthew Schneck (@matthew_schneck) January 16, 2018
And Twitter appreciated him and his efforts right back:
It sounds like you’re a teacher. If I’m correct you are exactly the kind of teacher I want in my grandsons school.— joan ribadulla (@ribadulla_joan) January 16, 2018
Only one thing left to do: