By: Billy Hallowell
Norma Thornton’s defiant message is clear: she isn’t backing down anytime soon. Last year, Bullhead City police arrested the 78-year-old Arizona grandma for feeding the homeless in a public park — a violation of a city ordinance.
“I don’t care what they say. They are wrong and I’m right,” she said.
“As the day was just finishing up and everybody was pretty well gone, (the) last gentleman came up, I dished up his food and just as he was walking away, a couple of police officers drove up, and asked what I was doing,” Thornton told CBN News’ Faithwire.
Then officers informed Thornton of her arrest, which was captured on video. She was placed in the back of a cop vehicle during the ordeal.
“Technically I’m supposed to be handcuffing you and everything too but I’m not going to do that because I don’t think you’re a hardened criminal,” an officer can be heard proclaiming. “I don’t think you’re out to hurt me.”
Although the misdemeanor was later dropped, Thornton was reportedly told she would face jail time if found guilty of any future feedings in the park — a claim that left her stunned.
Some might wonder what motivates Thornton’s kind gestures, and she wasted no time in crediting the Lord.
“The number one motivation is my Savior, Jesus Christ,” Thornton said. “In his Father, we are told repeatedly: the first and most foremost commandment is love — love thy neighbor, love your fellow man. He tells us several times, ‘What you do to the least of my people, you so do to me.'”
Some critics see the park preclusion as deeply troubling and unconstitutional. Diana Simpson, Thornton’s attorney, said she initially found Thornton’s plight hard to believe.
“It’s just it’s such a wild story. You think at first that like this can’t be real. It can’t be the case that a city is arresting someone for helping those in need and then you find out that it is the case,” Simpson said. “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s going on and that violates the Constitution.”
Simpson says her client is suing to stop the ordinance and win back the right to feed the homeless again in the park.
“We want to get Norma back to where she was before all of this started, serving folks in the park is really the best place that she’s found,” the attorney said.
Thornton, now feeding the poor a few blocks away in a private lot, leaves us all with a deeply convicting message.
“There is no reason under this earth that any human being should be hungry in this country that we live in — actually anywhere in the world,” she said. “There’s no reason for that. Our world is so full of food and luxuries. Why should anyone be hungry? I can’t understand.”
City officials say the ordinance is to ensure cleanliness in the park and safety for those being fed. As the battle continues, one thing is clear: Thornton isn’t giving up anytime soon.