Occupy Philadelphia provided the food for the protest that the groups deemed an "alternate opening" and "An Exhibit on Poverty, Class Warfare, and Hunger."
"We're just having a lovely evening, like the one they're having," Evangelisto said, looking over the big, white tent where the Barnes reception was about to begin, with filet mignon as the main course. "I don't have $1,500, but I really love art."
In addition to the food line, there were sketches and photo copies of some of the artwork in the Barnes that were hung on a line using clothespins.
"The real reason why Mayor Nutter is effectively banning the feeding of the homeless on the Parkway coincides with the Barnes' arrival," she said. "No question it's related."
Occupy Philadelphia member Matheau Moore, 40, agreed.
"It's an effort to clean up the area for tourists," he said. "A lot of people believe that the food distribution ban is . . . to get the homeless off the Parkway."
Evangelisto's own group, which feeds the homeless twice a week on the Parkway, would be prohibited from doing so under the new law.
Nutter's press secretary, Mark McDonald, said the new ban had nothing to do with forcing the homeless off the Parkway and everything to do with maintaining safety and health standards.
"The city is committed to ensuring that the food distributed is healthy and safe," he said Friday night. "That's why the Health Department has its regulation. The regulation that Michael DiBerardinis, deputy mayor for environmental and community resources, is promulgating is focused on activity on parkland, not individuals.
"It's what, not who," said McDonald. "The mayor believes that we, as a city, can do a better job toward helping hungry Philadelphians, and at the heart of that is serving food to people in an indoor setting with dignity, safety, and much more pleasant conditions."
McDonald said the mayor's new policy, which can begin as early as June 1, applies strictly to parkland.
"It does not speak to other places in the city," he said. "If, for example, a charitable group wants to serve food, for instance, at 11th and Spring Garden, they can do it - right out there on the sidewalk. It's my belief that they are fully accommodated."
Brian Jenkins, executive director of Chosen 300 Ministries Inc., one of six indoor food programs for the city's homeless, said the new ban has failed to take into account the vast disparity between need and the lack of available indoor space.
He said a shortage of space prompted his group to conduct an outdoor meal program every Saturday afternoon at 16th and the Parkway, about four blocks from the Barnes' new home.
"There are about 10,000 homeless in Philadelphia and about a quarter of a million that are enduring economic hardship and falling below the poverty line," Jenkins said, as his "God's Family Picnic" food distribution concluded Saturday, just before the 6:30 protest across from the Barnes. Jenkins then walked over to check out the protest activity there.
Signs taped to tree trunks read "Food Is a Human Right" and "Why Pay $1,500? Free Food and Free Art Here." Members of Occupy Philadelphia began serving food to the five dozen in attendance as police kept watch and as Mercedeses, BMWs, and limousines pulled up with well-dressed guests for the Barnes event.
Jenkins is leading a coalition of 26 groups that are opposing the new regulation that he calls "unconstitutional."
"The amount of people that are in need . . . is overwhelming," he said. "I support any effort that takes into account the rights of the homeless and the disenfranchised and is being done in a nonviolent, nonprofane way.
"As a community," he said, "we need to support those who are serving indoor and outdoor [meal] programs."
McDonald said a city program would allow groups to serve food at an atrium just outside City Hall.
"They have the perfect location right here at City Hall," he said, "with access to water, Porta-Johns, and trash pickup."
James Furlow, 57, of North Philadelphia, formerly homeless, wasn't impressed and said he was "disappointed" in the mayor.
"They have the millionaires in there, and the poor blacks and homeless out here," said Furlow, who collects monthly disability benefits. "And they're telling us we can't mingle the same as the millionaires.
"We can't eat on the Parkway because they brought the Barnes here," he said as he grabbed a bagel and a paper cup with salmon dip. "They're pushing us out, and we will not go."
Contact Suzette Parmley
at 215-854-2594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.