Last week when I had the pleasure of speaking with 53 year-old Keith McHenry, the founder of Food Not Bombs, the true depth and degree of the establishment’s malevolence and contempt for the poor was made vividly clear. Unemployed since 2003, he has been living in his van after all of his resources ran out during his futile struggle against long-term unemployment.
McHenry, a computer graphics designer by profession, was fired from his job at United Way after being blacklisted by Raytheon, a well-heeled defense contractor. He did not know why he was abruptly let go after getting stellar reviews from his superiors for his performance.
It took another year or two before McHenry landed another job — another non-profit organization, Radio For the Blind in Tucson, Arizona. He was terminated from that job, for reasons that had nothing to do with his work performance or ability to fit in with the office culture. His supervisor called him into her office one morning and apologetically told him she had to let him go.
McHenry and other key employees of Radio For the Blind are listed in company emails that routinely go out to the non-profit’s corporate contributors. Many of Radio for the Blind’s corporate donors are the same companies that give to the United Way, one of them being Raytheon.
This apparently led to the phone call from Raytheon to Keith McHenry’s supervisor, the managing director of Radio For the Blind. She explained, “I got this call from the vice president of Raytheon wondering why you work for us when you’re on the blacklist. He said, ‘Didn’t you know he [McHenry] was on the list and you’re not allowed to hire him?’ ”
The “transgression” that landed Keith McHenry on the list was his starting up the secular humanitarian group Food Not Bombs back in the 1980’s. This humanitarian organization is listed by the FBI as one of the most prominent “terrorist” groups in the US, for the “crime” of feeding the poor through direct actions such as setting up a folding table in public parks and offering delicious, hot prepared vegetarian meals free of charge to anybody who is hungry, or simply curious about the friendly activists with Food Not Bombs and their promotion of ethical eating, the humane treatment of animals and sustainable living.
Food Not Bombs was the only group that dared to cross the line by getting food to survivors of Hurricane Katrina when the Red Cross and other “official” charities were denied entrance to the sealed off flooded city of New Orleans. Food Not Bombs volunteers fed everybody, including FEMA personnel, police, and National Guardsmen.
Food Not Bombs gets organic vegetarian food donated from supermarkets and places like Rainbow co-op, and other local stores. Each local chapter of Food Not Bombs is democratically organized and run. There are chapters in approximately 1,000 cities around the world, involved in the humanitarian work of sharing food and community spirit with people. So how is it that the FBI, the CIA, and other components of the national security state decided to target Food Not Bombs for harassment and label it as a terrorist organization?
Simply put, Food Not Bombs embarrasses the establishment by doing what they do: feeding poor people for free without sermonizing them. Even if it means committing an occasional act of civil disobedience, like violating local ordinances capriciously enacted and aimed specifically at the poor and homeless; such as “progressive” San Francisco, the home of Nancy Pelosi — the liberal heart of America — which gentrified its poor out of the only homes they could afford and then criminalized them for being homeless by enacting a law that forbids anyone from sitting or lying down in the public parks.
Three members of the Philadelphia chapter were arrested on charges of terrorism for feeding the poor. Eric McDaniel got sentenced to 19 years in prison on trumped up fabricated charges during a direct action community meal in San Francisco. Bill Rogers died under mysterious circumstances after he was accused of burning down a Colorado ski resort. Keith McHenry was arrested for serving food in San Francisco with Food Not Bombs for “assault” and “criminal conspiracy to serve food in violation of a court order.” He narrowly escaped life imprisonment under the Three Strikes Law after the charges were dropped when Amnesty International and the UN got involved.
When Eric Montanez with the Orlando, Florida chapter cooked up and served vegan cuisine to the hungry homeless “tent city” residents — most whom are middle-aged long-term unemployed casualties of America’s social holocaust — he was arrested for violating a local ordinance that criminalizes the poor as well as those who want to freely share food with the poor.
Food Not Bombs currently operates in 12 countries worldwide without humiliating, patronizing, or lecturing the needy people they serve; but only in America does the group face resistance and repression. That is par for the course in the “land of the free.”
America is a “Christian nation” that wears its “pro-life” patriotic morality as a fashion (fascist?) accessory — like its “freedom” and “democracy” that it peddles to the world the way Hitler sold Nazism. May our Statue of Liberty rest in peace.