On Feb. 15, a new law in Columbia, S.C., began requiring any group of 25 people or more to apply for a permit and pay to be in local parks.
Groups that feed homeless people in the parks say the policy is directed at them.
The park fees are lower for charities, but several of these groups are not officially charities; they are simply people with a common goal to feed hungry Americans, notes RT.com.
Judith Turnipseed, who helps organize Food Not Bombs, says there are reduced fees for nonprofits, but adds that Food Not Bombs is not a registered charity, so it would have to pay $120 a week.
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“We have no formal organization,” Turnipseed told the Free Times. “We don’t have a 501(c)(3). We’re just a group of people who come to the park and bring food and share it with anyone who comes. That includes people who are homeless, and people who have a home but are hungry. It’s a people’s picnic.”
Food Not Bombs, which has fed homeless people in a local park for 12 years, is considering legal action against the City of Columbia.
“We do have groups that come to our facilities without notice, bring large groups,” Jeff Caton, of Columbia's Parks and Recreation Department, told the Free Times. “When that happens, sometimes there aren’t enough trash cans for the group, or the bathrooms aren’t ready, and it can hurt everyone’s park experience.”
Caton says the ordinance allows his department to turn away groups or activities that “will unreasonably interfere with or detract from the enjoyment" of the public park.