Charity groups in Raleigh, North Carolina are criticizing local police over what they call a sudden enforcement of a local ordinance prohibiting them from feeding the homeless.
"The police are caught up in a system," Rev. Hugh Hollowell told WRAL-TV on Sunday. "The police work for the mayor and the City Council, who is ultimately responsible to the developers who spend lots and lots of money to revitalize downtown."
Hollowell attracted attention to the police's activities on Saturday after his group, Love Wins Ministries, was barred from its weekly food distribution at a local park, Moore Square, for the first time in six years.
"No representative from the Raleigh Police Department was willing to tell us which ordinance we were breaking, or why, after six years and countless friendly and cooperative encounters with the Department, they are now preventing us from feeding hungry people," Hollowell wrote on the group's website. "When I asked the officer why, he said that he was not going to debate me. 'I am just telling you what is. Now you pass out that food, you will go to jail.'"
Another charitable group, Human Beans Together, told WRAL it was also forced out of the park. When it relocated to a nearby parking lot to continue, police also stepped in before the owner arrived and allowed them to remain on the premises while they negotiate a long-term solution.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported that enforcement of Sec. 9-2022 of local ordinances regarding city parks -- which mandates permits for food distribution efforts -- has increased over the past few weeks. Hollowell wrote on his group's website that permits for these kinds of outings would cost $800 apiece.
"What people heard yesterday was the police department trying to let everyone know, this is the existing ordinance, and this is why it's not really working right now," Mayor Nancy McFarlane told WRAL on Sunday. "We're going to work on a better way."
Watch WRAL's report, aired Sunday, below.