SAN FRANCISCO - Eating pizza hardly seems like something you would do on the steps of the courthouse.
But about 20 people did just that in support of Daniel McHugh.
That’s because the 64-year-old received a $234 police citation for chomping on a piece of pineapple-pepperoni-sausage two months ago at a bus stop at 7th and Market.
“It was very embarrassing, and it was very humiliating,” McHugh said.
San Francisco Police are known for clearing out homeless who frequently gather at the bus stop with no intention of catching a bus.
Joel Vincent Delia noshed on a burrito. He calls the ticket preposterous.
“It’s like, why don’t you go catch the child molesters, drug dealers, murderers, rapists, real criminals?” Delia said.
Wanda Edwards says people get away with far worse things than eating pizza.
“Shooting up heroin, sitting there, smoking crack, selling dope, whatever you want to do and it’s legal. But if you do something that is legal, it’s illegal,” Edwards said.
There are no signs prohibiting eating at a shelter. But according to city law, it is illegal to eat within the public transit system – and this shelter is considered part of that system.
Police and the MTA say ticketing is up to the discretion of the officer. Protestors say it’s a law that is simply not evenly enforced.
“I think it speaks to a wider trend of criminalization of poverty and homelessness generally and the solutions that the city has chosen to address those problems.”
“I respect the San Francisco Police Department and also the officer, too, you know. Yet the way he did it though, maybe he was having a bad day or something,” McHugh said.
As for McHugh’s ticket? The officer didn’t show up to court, so the ticket was tossed.
And as of the past few weeks, McHugh is no longer homeless. He now lives in an apartment through the city’s supportive housing program – where he can eat all the pizza he wants.
“I have a decent -- I have a real nice place to live, with my own kitchen, my own bathroom, shower,” McHugh said. “And it gives me a sense of dignity.”
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