AUDIOSLAVE Guitarist, SYSTEM OF A DOWN Singer Break Law To Feed Homeless

January 3, 2003

AUDIOSLAVE guitarist Tom Morello and SYSTEM OF A DOWN singer Serj Tankian handed out food to dozens of homeless people Friday in defiance of a new city ordinance that places severe restrictions on food distribution programs

Morello and Tankian, who founded the activist organization Axis of Justice last year, also took part in a protest march and spoke at a press conference held by the National Lawyers Guild, which filed a lawsuit hours earlier against the city of Santa Monica challenging the ordinance.

The ordinance being contested, passed by the city council in October, requires charitable groups to abide by restaurant codes when handing out food in public places.

"When Axis of Justice first heard of this law, we said the first day it goes into effect, lunch is on us," Morello told "We'll continue to do it in defiance of the law. I'm not worried police are going to show up and arrest us, I'm worried homeless people are going to be hungry tonight."

"We would have to have sinks and refrigerators and ovens set up in the park to legally hand out lunches like we did today," explained James Lafferty, director of the National Lawyers Guild. "The rules are impossible to follow for organizations that don't make a profit."

Tankian believes that the ordinance was constructed as a way to drive the homeless out of Santa Monica.

"I don't understand. The homeless have never been a problem," the singer said. "Businesses want the homeless out of the way because it doesn't look good. This is Los Angeles — it has to look good. In reality, it's not stopping business. Their sales are at record highs. It doesn't matter. The truth of the matter is it's going to leave these people starving."

"This is a tremendously cruel law that criminalizes compassion," Morello said. "In a city as wealthy as Santa Monica, there's no reason everybody shouldn't have a home and enough to eat, along with the appropriate job training or mental heath services or drug or alcohol rehabilitation, whatever they need to get back on their feet. Those are the things the city council should be focusing on, not trying to deny hungry people food."

For more information on Axis of Justice, visit the group's web site at this location.

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