Homeless people are known for eating trash, sometimes referred to by them as “ground scoring”. Most trash id disgusting, but some of it is really good because the food itself is fine but had to be thrown away because of highly questionable corporate policies aimed and prioritizing theoretical profits over humanity and the common good of their fellow man they claim to serve.
Now in the city of Portland, Oregon, there has been a controversy after a grocery store, having been ordered to throw out large amounts of food because of a power outage, ordered her employees to guard the dumpster the food was thrown into and then went to call the cops and keep people from feeding themselves at gunpoint.
Roughly a dozen Portland police officers faced off with a small group at a Northeast Portland Fred Meyer on Tuesday after people tried to take food that had been thrown away.
Workers at the Hollywood West Fred Meyer threw away thousands of perishable items because the store, like many others, had lost power in an outage brought on by the region’s winter storm.
Images on social media showed mountains of packaged meat, cheese and juice, as well as whole turkeys and racks of ribs that had been tossed into two large dumpsters near the store.
A few people gathered about 2:30 p.m. at the store, 3030 N.E. Weidler St., in hopes of salvaging the food.
But within a few hours, people seeking food from the dumpsters began to report police officers showing up to guard the dumpsters and prevent people from taking the items.
Morgan Mckniff, a prominent activist and outspoken Portland police critic who lives in the neighborhood, said employees were guarding the dumpsters when they showed up to get some of the discarded food. Mckniff began to film the employees and reported staff members threatened to call the police on them for doing so.
The store manager called police shortly thereafter, Mckniff said, and Mckniff began livestreaming the interaction on Instagram.
“After that, other people started showing up and asking them, ‘Why are you guys guarding a dumpster?’” Mckniff said.
Mckniff said about 15 people eventually gathered in an attempt to collect food.
At that point, Mckniff said, a dozen officers arrived at the scene. One officer wasn’t wearing a mask and refused to put one on until a supervisor arrived and brought him one, according to Mckniff.
On Wednesday, Portland police said officers were sent to the scene after employees said “they felt the situation was escalating and feared there may be a physical confrontation,” a police spokesman said in a statement.
Also on Wednesday, a Fred Meyer spokesman responded to what had become a deluge of criticism, noting the company donates more than five million pounds of food annually.
“Unfortunately, due to loss of power at this store, some perishable food was no longer safe for donation to local hunger relief agencies,” the company wrote. “Our store team became concerned that area residents would consume the food and risk food borne illness, and they engaged local law enforcement out of an abundance of caution. We apologize for the confusion.”
Juniper Simonis, a well-known activist and researcher who arrived to document the police presence, said officers showed up and threatened those on hand with arrest — at which point the crowd moved across the street.
Simonis, also an environmental biologist and data scientist, said they took out their press badge and went closer to take photos of the officers, who were standing in front of the bins full of food.
“I’m just interacting with officers and trying to get their information, and then they say, ‘We’re going to arrest you if you don’t leave,’ and threatened me with trespassing,” Simonis said.
Simonis was bewildered by the threat of arrest.
“I was documenting the police, not what was in the dumpster,” they said. “I wasn’t going over there. And the police got the store manager to threaten me with trespassing.”
For their part, police said they tried to explain to the group that the food was spoiled, but “no subject in the crowd was willing to have an open dialogue with the officers and continued to shout insults at them and store employees,” a spokesman said.
Simonis said police eventually left and those waiting to get food made their way over to the dumpsters. As of 6:30 p.m., about two dozen people were at the dumpsters, taking a few items each.
Simonis noted that all the food was still in good condition, given the cold weather. One person picked up a carton of juice with an expiration date in March.
Both Mckniff and Simonis said the immediate action to prevent people from taking the discarded food speaks to the value the city places on providing aid to those in need.
The run-in also came as the region reeled from a winter storm that brought on widespread power outages that left many people unable to salvage perishable items in their refrigerators.
“The people who were there weren’t there for selfish reasons — they were there to get food to distribute to hungry people around the city,” Simonis said. “There are mutual aid groups that have been helping feed people at warming centers, because the city doesn’t have enough resources to feed them.”
Multnomah County kept emergency severe weather shelters open Monday, taking to social media to ask for volunteers to keep the doors open an additional night. More than 300,000 people and businesses lost power over the weekend, with nearly all of the area’s hotels filling up as people tried to escape the cold.
Mckniff said many of the people police threatened with arrest and turned away are regular customers of the store.
“I live in this neighborhood. This neighborhood doesn’t have power,” Mckniff said. “And Fred Meyer is telling people in this immediate community who shop here that they can’t have these things they’re throwing away. Cheese, pickles, yogurt — things that are intentionally cultured and cured.”
Simonis said it’s hard to rationalize the actions by police and the store.
“None of this makes sense to me except through the lens of severely ingrained policing and a culture of disrespect for human dignity,” they said.
They noted parallels between the Fred Meyer incident and Portland protests.
Simonis, for their part, is one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit that alleges local, state and federal officers violated the rights of people with disabilities through aggressive police responses to the protests.
“Here it’s not broken windows, it’s tossed away but otherwise completely fine food,” Simonis said. “It’s not a bad situation or vandalism, it’s literally the exact opposite — feeding hungry people. Yet they still use the same apparatus to prevent anything from being done.” (source)
Dumpster diving is legal in all 50 states. The famous case of California v. Greenwood in 1988 solidified this after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of police over the defendant who contended his rights were violated by illegal search and seizure as part of a drug investigation on the basis that trash- even trash set on a curb or into another container -constitutes a choice in the divestment of ownership from the person who had it. Therefore, it is considered public property for whoever wants to claim it. It is one of the better and very logical rulings of the Supreme Court because regardless of what one thinks about drugs, the ruling articulates a highly sensible, philosophical principle into law that is always a relevant thing for property ownership, especially in a highly litigious society such as America.
This is not to say that people who do not own trash cans cannot lock them. Wal-Mart does this all the time, as do many stores. There are also local ordinances that sometimes restrict the practice, and with understandable reasoning.
However, there comes a point when things are ridiculous or inhumane.
Years ago, I remember working for a “big box” store. This store was throwing away good electronics- I speak of almost brand new electronics and devices -simply because they were considered “for display”. I remember being disgusted at this behavior, and brought it up to my manager, who became angry and threatened to have me fired for “stealing” if I tried to pull them out of the trash.
Clearly he was lying, or an ignoramus of legal reality, as are most people. Yet the viciousness that I saw in his face and can still recall reminds me of this above incident.
There is no reason- absolutely no reason at all -that food that a corporation demands be thrown away for policies that are often times questionable could not be given to poor people, or at the very least, would want to restrict people from exercising their LEGAL RIGHT to take out of the dumpster because, under law and barring the above mentioned exceptions, THE MINUTE THE FOOD OR WHATEVER OTHER PRODUCT GOES INTO THE DUMPSTER, IT IS NO LONGER THEIRS.
The fact that this store would call the police to have police come and guard the store dumpster, and to that, to have the police stand on legally questionable grounds to “defend the dumpster” from people trying to get food is not just a legal matter, but a moral and ethical one too.
What were the police really “protecting”? Were they “serving and protecting” the interests of the general public, or the interests of a large, monied corporation and their particular legalism and policies at the expense of people who are genuinely suffering?
Make no mistake, I am not talking about a “people’s revolt against the man”, or anything political at all. I’m talking about a business who throws away things they ones had- relinquishes its legal right to the items -and then wants the force of the law to prevent people from taking said items they have relinquished control over so the same people cannot get them and use them.
If one does not want people taking one’s trash, then (a) lock the dumpster, (b) dump it in a different location and don’t tell anybody, or (c) don’t throw it away. That is it. A common man could not put an item in his trash bin and then chase off people with a gun who went through his barrel unless he wanted to go to jail for firearms charges and threatening assault, and the excuse of “this is my trash” would not hold up in court because of State of California v. Greenwood.
Therefore, if the common man cannot do this, what makes a corporation- which many times intentionally generate needless waste far more than any individual or neighborhood -exempt from the same principle, other than they have a lot of money and political power so they can use their position to “legally violate” the law while the common man cannot?
This is part of a greater trend, and that is, the oppression of the common man in society to the favor of a few mega-corporations.
Ask yourself, in a political example relevant to the current times and state of affairs, why the mainstream media has been living in what seems like a dual reality, on the one hand wanting to erase Trump from history but on the other hand unable to stop talking about him. The only answer to this seemingly confused duality is not schizophrenia, but that the message is not really about Donald Trump. It is instead a message about the general public, and specifically his supporters, who are the ones being made into “the enemy” on the basis that their actions asked the ‘wrong questions’ about those in power. The message being sent is that one is not allowed to question the ruling elite, the media’s official pronouncements on a matter, the wars that they start or tell people they have to support, the validity of election results even with trends that all suggest massive amounts of fraudulent behavior, or who really runs this country and who their names, families, beliefs, and associations are. If you do, you are the personification of evil- call it a white supremacist, a domestic terrorist, or another culturally relevant to the period label applied rightly or not -who needs to be imprisoned and his rights stripped from him. One does not need to be a “Trump loyalist” to see this. If anything, it measn that if it has not already come fully, he future is the past and just like how every day in the famed Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day” was Groundhog Day, the future is that 1984 is here to stay.
Why can’t people take food to the hungry? Because we said so.
But it’s trash. It doesn’t matter because we said so.
But we have rights and what you are doing is clearly illegal. Only if the police will enforce them, and they listen to us before you.
But we are hungry and people are suffering. It’s not our problem, slave.
This is where the end result is. This action is just another form of eugenics, done in the name of “legality”. Eugenics is much more than human experimentation and mass murder. That is the end result. In order to get to that point, it starts with denying the humanity of people and abusing them in ways that strip them of their humanity and provide no reasonable opportunities to helps themselves or get a better life. Throwing food away- thereby relinquishing ones right to it -and then calling police to prevent the hungry people from getting the same food is not just morally or ethically wrong, but it is a step on the road that many nations have taken before, and they all end with human experimentation and before one realizes it, as what happened in the Herrero Genocide, some man being forced to clean and bleach the skulls of his dead neighbor so that they can be sent back to the “homeland” where some evil scientists can “study” it in a laboratory and make insane theories about why that group is “subhuman” and the group he belongs to are divine.
After all, if you believe you can deny people at gunpoint their right to eat even trash, is simply asking for them to be executed an insurmountable step?