A 78 year old grandmother, who was arrested for feeding homeless people in north-west Arizona, is suing over a local ordinance that regulates food-sharing events in public parks, accusing the authorities of “criminalizing kindness”
Norma Thornton was arrested and criminally charged for feeding those in need in Bullhead City Arizona back in March.
Her lawyer said the lawsuit, which was filed this week, is part of a nationwide effort to let people feed those in need.
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Norma has for decades dedicated her time to helping those in need. She would moved from city to city befriending the homeless population in each town and feeding them with her homemade meals. She would also cleans their laundry and helps them connect with social services, and more.
However, under a new ordinance, Bullhead city has deemed it a criminal misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines and even imprisonment, to share prepared food in a public park “for charitable purposes.
Activist Post reports: Highlighting the sheer lack of reason and logic is the “charitable purposes” portion of this ordinance. Norma could invite 150 of her friends and relatives to the park, cook for them, and feed them all and she wouldn’t be in violation of any law. But if those friends are homeless, the act becomes charitable, and therefore illegal.
Luckily, the folks with Institute for Justice have taken up Norma’s case and they are suing the city over this cruel and inhumane law.
“The city has criminalized kindness,” said IJ Attorney Diana Simpson.
People have a right to feed those in need and have been doing so for the entirety of human history. People have a fundamental right to engage in charity, which is protected by the Constitution. There is absolutely no valid reason for Bullhead City to crack down on Norma’s act of compassion.
“Norma saw a way to provide a private solution to a major issue in her community, and she must not be punished for helping these people,” said IJ Attorney Suranjan Sen. “How to solve homelessness is a difficult question with various answers, but Bullhead City’s law certainly isn’t the right one. Cities should encourage private solutions to homelessness, not prevent these efforts.”
Through her lawsuit, Norma is seeking to overturn the city’s ordinance that criminalizes being kind. According to the lawsuit, banning charity is a violation of her rights to due process, privileges and immunities of citizenship, and equal protection secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Norma asks the court to (1) declare that Bullhead City’s ordinance criminalizing the charitable sharing of food in public parks is unconstitutional and (2) enjoin the city from enforcing it against Norma or anyone else. She merely wants to be able to continue serving food to those in need where they are.