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Police slammed for refusing to let people take food thrown away by a grocery store

The employees of the store had called the cops to stop people accessing the food, claiming the situation outside the store was "escalating."

Police slammed for refusing to let people take food thrown away by a grocery store
Image source: woman shopping at meat section - stock photo/Getty Images

Portland police officers clashed with people who were trying to salvage food that was thrown away by a grocery store. Hollywood West Fred Meyer, a grocery store in Portland, got rid of thousands of perishable items into two large dumpsters outside the store because of the power outage caused by a winter storm. With the weather being extremely cold, the perishables were salvageable, according to many residents who gathered to collect the packaged food from the dumpsters. The cops responded to a call from the employees at the grocery store and guarded the dumpster, preventing people from salvaging food that was going to waste anyway. Perishables thrown away included packaged meat, large juice cartons, and dairy products, reported NBC News. They had been disposed off by the store in the wake of the power outage. Many foods were frozen, with some people even finding products that hadn't expired. 



Police officers said they were responding to a call from a Fred Meyer employee, who felt the situation was "escalating." Nothing's an escalation quite like people who are struggling to make ends meet, looking to salvage food during a crisis. The employees, who called the cops at 4 p.m. told the authorities that the food was spoiled and was unfit for consumption or donation. Videos and photos showed a group of people, which grew to 50 in number, rummaging through the dumpster looking for food. The officers told the group to leave or risk getting arrested for trespassing on private property, said cops. The incident happened on February 16.


Fred Meyer released a statement on the issue, "We appreciate people speaking out against hunger. We get it, throwing away food is never a good thing. Unfortunately, some perishable food that requires refrigeration at our Hollywood store was out of temperature for a protracted period of time.”


Juniper Simonis, a well-known activist and researcher, who showed up to document the incident said the cops forced the crowds to disperse and moved them across the street. The cops threatened to arrest Simonis as he was documenting the cops guarding the dumpster. When Simonis flashed his press badge to show them he had the right to cover the incident, they responded by threatening him, “We’re going to arrest you if you don’t leave,” they told him, reported Oregonian.  “I was documenting the police, not what was in the dumpster,” said Simonis. Portland Police refused to comment on the cops ignoring Simonis' press badge and threatening him when asked about it on Wednesday.


Police officers left the area eventually, stating that they did so because they felt that there was "no longer any threat or harm." Not sure how long it takes to ascertain that group of people searching for food doesn't pose "any threat or harm." After the cops left, the people were allowed to pick food from the dumpsters. How benevolent. The employees at Fred Meyer called the police yet again, but the officers refused to intervene stating that there was no imminent threat from the people.


Simonis said none of the people collecting food thrown out by the grocery store were there for "selfish reasons.” Among those searching for food were members of mutual aid groups that provided food and resources to people at warming centers, said Simonis. They added that the lack of empathy from the authorities was glaring. “None of this makes sense to me except through the lens of severely ingrained policing and a culture of disrespect for human dignity,” said Simonis. “It’s not a bad situation or vandalism, it’s literally the exact opposite — feeding hungry people.”


There surely isn't a better metaphor for capitalism than cops, who are on the payroll of taxpayers, guarding a dumpster, on behalf of a corporation, to stop people accessing food to survive in freezing temperatures, during a power outage facilitated by the privatisation of traditionally public service, to maintain a product's profit margin.  

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