In the hopes of obtaining free groceries, hundreds of Augusta, Ga. residents gathered in the parking lot of a shuttered supermarket Tuesday only to be pushed back by police overseeing disposal of the food into dumpsters.
Richmond County Marshal Steve Smith said that as a result of the store's eviction the food belonged to the property's owner, Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank. The bank asked authorities to dispose of the food that piled up in the store's parking lot.
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"We don't have authority to take possession of the property; we just have to make sure that it's handled, disposed of by law,
" Smith told WISTV.com.
Onlookers, many holding plastic bags and storage containers in anticipation of a giveaway, watched in horror as food, furniture, and other household items were discarded like trash into dumpsters.
The merchandise was later disposed into area landfills.
"People have children out here that are hungry, thirsty, could be anything. Why throw it away when you could be issuing it out?" asked resident Robertstine Lambert.
"For them to do this is a low blow. A lot of people are sad, a lot of people aren't going to have food to put on their table; this is ridiculous," added fellow onlooker Jennifer Santiago.
Sheriff Richard Roundtree told WISTV.com he was surprised a riot didn't break out.
"These are brand new items; we saw the potential for a riot was extremely high," Roundtree said.
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The family that owned the supermarket said they were told they were being evicted last week and subsequently offered the food to a local church.
However, the church never showed up to collect the goods Tuesday afternoon. Once news spread that the merchandise was being disposed, residents began to show up in the parking lot. At least 300 people eventually arrived.
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