Panhandlers protest appeal to stop giving

November 09, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A group of panhandlers protested yesterday at City Hall and at the Baltimore Sun building, charging that statements by the mayor and a newspaper editorial unfairly portrayed the homeless community.

Led by the founders of Viva House, a soup kitchen in Southwest Baltimore, the protesters tried to serve stones to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Sun editors.

The group's slogan, "We ask for bread you give us stones," was written in black ink on the bottom of the foam plates.

They are upset with Mr. Schmoke's comments two weeks ago in which he urged people to give money to charities instead of to panhandlers. Three days later, The Sun ran an editorial headlined, "No sympathy for beggars." It said panhandling has "reached epidemic proportions" and praised the mayor for his stance. "It's about time," The Sun wrote.

Brendan Walsh, a co-founder of Viva House, called the editorial "offensive." He said brushing by panhandlers "is not a way to solve the problem to read a thing like that in The Sun and have Schmoke concur with it is unconscionable."

The 50 protesters were turned away at City Hall, but mayoral aide Ronald Harris brought several plates of stones inside, however he would not say whether the mayor would receive one.

Through a spokesman, Mr. Schmoke said he thanks "citizens for responding to my call to give to charities and not to panhandlers. That's the best way to improve life for all of us."

About 35 protesters then walked to The Sun building, where they gathered in the front lobby and met with Michael Shultz, a Sun spokesman.

He talked to the group and promised to deliver four plates of stones and a poster quoting Malcolm X that says "newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed" to editors.

"I understand Mr. Walsh's concerns," Mr. Shultz said. "It's best to judge editorials over the long haul and judge our position on social issues."

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