Richmond Food Not Bombs has been sharing food in Monroe Park for over sixteen years now. We have developed many connections and friendships over the course of our existence, helped provide healthy food to many individuals who may not have had access to it otherwise, and become a staple of social activity for many people’s Sunday afternoons.
The proposed renovations to Monroe Park are an attack , a judgement on who the park should and shouldn’t be for. It is an attack on the homeless, the “homeless-appearing” (whatever that means – it’s in the Monroe Park Advisory Council’s renovation plans), and groups and individuals who don’t judge people by their social status or whether they have conventional means of acquiring shelter.
We will not stand for it.
The only change that the park really needs is for the city to do its job when it comes do doing maintenance on the bathrooms, as they are functional but one of the water pipes to the sinks has corroded away. Other improvements, such as installing permanent chess tables, or a playground area for kids would be nice, but NOT at the cost of driving out the folks who currently congregate in the park, shutting the entire park down for 18 months, or privatizing the security of the park.
Food Not Bombs will resist all attempts to shut the entire park down for any amount of time. This is a congregating place for students, families, homeless individuals, activists, folks who like to play frisbee, and various other people who currently enjoy the dynamic of the park. The ONLY people currently not represented in the day-to-day activity of the park are affluent white folks, and the proposed renovations are CLEARLY designed with ONLY them in mind.
To the end of maintaining the park as a place for people from ALL walks of life to gather, enjoy themselves, share meals, resources, and conversation we have a few very specific demands:
1) We require that a minimum of two acres be kept open and un-fenced at all times during construction. We understand the nature of construction and are ok with it not being the SAME two acres at all times, but they must be contiguous and accessible to ALL people.
2) During the construction, at any time that the bathroom facilities are not accessible/functional we require at least 4 portable toilets and two hand washing stations, as well as a source of drinking water, to be accessible to the public.
3) We require open, clear, and direct communication from the City Council, the Monroe Park Advisory Council, and any other companies, groups or organizations involved in the renovation efforts. This is to include publicly posted signs IN the park regarding renovation proposals, active dissemination of any new developments in construction, and active participation in dialogue with the current users of the park.
4) There will be no regulations at any time restricting the distribution of free food, clothing, or other resources.
5) IF a private security company is hired to do security for the park, their protocols and handbooks will be available for free on request from any member of the public, and there will be a predetermined and transparent accountability process for any instances of security officers abusing their powers or violating individuals’ rights.
We feel that these are reasonable requests, and we will NOT compromise on any of them. Public parks are for the people who use them, not “Advisory Councils” or universities who would like to see them change to better suit their vision of gentrification.
We will not tolerate further attacks on those already most oppressed by the oppressive institutions of capitalism that are behind the push to “renovate” Monroe Park, and we WILL fight back against them.
-Because food is a right, not a privilege.
Food Not Bombs