A video posted to social media over the weekend by an “anarchist art collective” shows shoplifters appearing to steal food from grocery stories and handing it out to homeless people.
The roughly minute-long footage, posted to Instagram on Saturday by activist art group, Indecline.
It shows individuals using the apparently stolen items to assemble care bags for impoverished people struggling during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Special thanks to Whole Foods & Target for their generosity in this time of need,” Indecline said in a caption of the video.
The bags seen in the video are marked with anti-Trump and anti-capitalist messages.
“Capitalism is the virus,” reads one such message.
The short film has been shared widely on social media, including on Twitter, where one clip has been viewed more than 7.5 million times.
Commenters on social media were divided as to whether the spirit behind Indecline’s stunt was justifiable.
“Most groceries stores are owned by corporations that steal everyday from their workers and some have them working in horrible conditions right now. I’m not saying normalize shoplifting… but,” tweeted one user.
“Looting from mega corporations is self-care and justified …” said another.
But others felt differently.
“Committing crime, even for ‘good,’ is still criminal. You can’t feed the homeless from jail. Smarten up and find a better way,” tweeted one commenter.
Except, having worked retail I know that when folks steal from a store it is usually the workers at that store who are suspected of theft and they are usually punished in some way so…
— DeepLez, ExtraGay ? ⚢ (@PurlMaster55) March 22, 2020
Indecline’s founders shot to notoriety in the early 2000s by producing the first film in the exploitative “Bumfights” series, which featured homeless men performing degrading stunts for money.
Since then, the group has pivoted towards the creation of art that espouses anarchist and anti-Trump ideology.
The coronavirus’ effect on the U.S. homeless population
The coronavirus is causing the closure of homeless centers across the United States, according to homelessness experts.
Homeless centers said they have been forced to shut their doors in order to follow safety precautions over social distancing as enforced by international governments and health organizations.
The United States has an estimated 552,830 homeless people, according to a 2019 report by the Council of Economic Advisers, an agency within the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
Meanwhile, measures aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus have ground economic activity to a halt in some states.
President Donald Trump issued guidelines a week ago that he said would slow the spread of the disease over 15 days, including curbing unnecessary travel.
Late on Sunday, Trump tweeted: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” adding that at the end of the 15-day shutdown period, “we will make a decision as to which way we want to go.”
(Reuters contributed to this report.)