Indianapolis Moves to Limit Food and Goods Distributions To the Hungry

August 24, 2022 | by Jake Watkins

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — The Indianapolis City-County Council has targeted mutual aid services under the guise of concerns for litter and potential violence. Sponsored by Councilors Zach Adamson, Kristin Jones and Vop Osili, Proposal 256 looks to take effect in October 2022. The Proposal seeks to criminalize the charitable distribution of goods to 10 or more individuals. It states; “It shall be unlawful for a donor to make a charitable distribution of goods in a public right-of-way or on City property without having a valid, unrevoked registration on file with the Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS).” Even if a license is obtained, it  can be revoked by a complaint from OPHS or any law enforcement agency. Prop 256 threatens a $250 fine for first time offenders and those with multiple violations will be fined $500. Wildstyle DaProducer, a photographer, videographer, and music composer who documents life, nature, hip hop, and community and all the points they may intersect, told People’s World, “It is a Proposal by Democratic City Councilors in Indianapolis to essentially fine people for donating anything to 10 or more people in need of those donations.”

He also told People’s World about the hurdles our homeless communities already face, and the effect this Proposal will have in Indianapolis. “I think it makes a bad situation worse.” City Councilors Adamson, Jones, and Osili will criminalize helping others to ensure that an “appropriate balance” is struck between promoting charitable activities and preventing litter, and violence. Wildstyle predicts the opposite will happen. “It doesn’t actually help some of the business people’s goals the way they think it will. As far as eliminating litter and making a safer downtown, It’s going to create more desperation, possibly more violence, and definitely more misery. So, it’s not going to have its intended effects, not in the way some supporters think it would.” Proposal 256 may, in fact, increase litter in the city. Currently, where mutual aid is distributed, there is access to proper trash and recycling disposal. For the entire city of Indianapolis and Marion County, there are two designated OPHS charitable distribution sites that are essentially exempt from this proposal. Moving food, clothing, and other aid distribution to those locations will reduce access to trash and recycling bins as well as restrooms and porta-potties.  

Wildstyle told People’s World, “The old city hall, and Babe Denny park on the south side of downtown.” Those locations come with complications, however. The old city hall location has absolutely no infrastructure in it, “it is a parking lot that is being used. It has no trash cans, only a recycling bin that says no trash.” The lack of infrastructure, Wildstyle said, creates an unsafe situation. “It has no restrooms, porta-potties or washing stations. Nothing that actually supports charitable distribution for anybody.” The other location is Babe Denny Park, it does have porta-potties, but still no washing stations, and another issue is location. “Babe Denny park is in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium, and it is surrounded by parking lots. So that location is completely inaccessible if a large event is going on at Lucas Oil. Not just Colt’s games, but even the Drum Corps convention here over the weekend, [when] I went by, it was completely inaccessible.” Furthermore, the condition of the park is not well-suited for distribution. “The park itself is in poor condition. There’s no love there anymore, it’s not taken care of, just neglect.”

This legislation is not new. Prop 256 was originally proposed in the fall of 2020 by Republican City Councilor Michael-Paul Hart as Prop 291. Wildstyle told People’s World, “even in 2020, I think it was a gentlemen’s agreement that some of our Democratic City Councilors wanted this too.” The republicans were just the vehicle for delivery of the Proposal. “And when it failed miserably, they waited and decided that they were going to represent it with a very diverse team of democratic counselors bringing it forward. Ironically, this proposal is actually more stringent than the Republican’s version.” Enforcing Proposal 256 will be paid for through tax revenue; money that we desperately need to go into our communities, Wildstyle told us. “Indianapolis could achieve better results for the business people-safer downtown, less litter, just overall better aesthetics-by doing their due diligence as city government to provide services to all its citizens.”

Wildstyle told us about his letter to the city councilors. “Ironically enough, I got no response from the three Counselors asking for a rundown of what happens when you don’t pay the fine, and what the escalation point is.” This Proposal essentially writes the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) a blank check as far as enforcement. Wildstyle told us, “the role of IMPD is whatever they want to play. They’re the sole determinant of whether you’ve had an incident, which is poorly defined, if defined at all, in the proposal. IMPD can revoke registration status with one call to OPHS.” In 2021, Sgt. Eric Huxley of IMPD kicked the face of a handcuffed Jermaine Vaughn, who was battling homelessness at that time. According to Wildstyle, proposal 256 opens the door for more police violence. “I have to expect that by previous behavior with IMPD, You may receive treatment like they delivered to an unhoused man last year. We have somebody who was making too much noise for their taste on the circle in the public place, they arrested him and stomped him in the face.” The circle Wildstyle refers to is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis where many unhoused people stay because shelters kick them out each morning and they are not allowed to return until evening. Black Hoosiers already make up a disproportionate percentage of Indianapolis’ homeless and incarcerated. “This Proposal is racist”, said Wildstyle. Despite comprising 30% of Marion county’s population, Black people make up 54% of Indianapolis’ homeless. “They have trumped-up different issues. They’ve pretended like there’s a violence problem when there actually isn’t. The goal of this Proposal is to punish our already suffering homeless communities.”

“Proposal 291 was shut down by community pushback, Proposal 256 must be beaten in the same manner.” Said Eric Brooks, Chair., Communist Party of Indiana, CPUSA. “Our indigent neighbors are already facing unprecedented struggles via rising food and living expenses. Banning charitable distribution will inflict unmeasurable amounts of harm upon our most vulnerable communities.” Please join us in the fight against Prop 256 on August 24th at 4p.m. at Lugar Plaza in front of the City County building. Icon, from CityDump Records in Indianapolis, his fiancée, and Wildstyle DaProducer are cooking and donating brisket, mac and cheese, and collard greens to Indy’s unhoused. Please sign up to help out with the event here, or visit the event’s facebook page for more information. Please join the tentative public hearing on this Proposal at 5:30 p.m. Wildstyle urges the public to make their voices heard in opposition. “If this passes, then we’re going to have to go with civil disobedience. Make them escalate it and take it to the courts. It’s unconstitutional.”

Those interested in working with the Young Communist League or the Communist Party of Indiana, CPUSA on the struggle against prop 256 can contact info@indianacpusa.org.