Yesterday, Cambridge police announced that “A 48 hour dispersal order has been put in place in Cambridge to tackle ongoing anti-social behaviour including aggressive begging, street drinking and violence.”
The police want to “allow people visiting the city to go about their business without being harassed, alarmed, or distressed.” We are alarmed that the feelings of shoppers who may feel uncomfortable seeing unhoused people are being prioritised over the need to support our neighbours.
Cambridge Community Kitchen oppose this criminalisation and stigmatisation of unhoused Cambridge residents. Measures such as this construct unhoused people as the problem; instead, we locate the blame with the system that causes homelessness and then criminalises the unhoused. We call for resources to be invested in providing social support for our neighbours, not policing them. We see the police targeting of members of our community who have been made vulnerable by the system in which we live as the definition of anti-social behaviour.
We experienced the impact of the dispersal order yesterday when CCK couldn’t deliver meals to several regular recipients because they had been forced to move on threat of arrest.
Police actions are actively undermining our efforts to serve free hot meals three times a week in an attempt to help fill the gaps in social care for our neighbours. In a world of abundance, nobody should be going hungry. We’re disgusted by the recent dispersal order and related calls to expand police powers through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. We’re once again calling on Cambridge to focus on care, NOT criminalisation.