Outrage after parking officer tickets people waiting at food bank in Allentown, Pa.

An incident in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has sparked outrage among residents after a parking enforcement officer issued tickets to people waiting to collect free groceries outside a church food bank on Saturday.

A video posted on Facebook by Fuente de Vida Church showed a line of cars outside the church with a law enforcement officer scanning license plates.

According to the video, many of those who received tickets did not understand what was happening at first. Pastor Alejandro Escamilla explained the situation in Spanish.

“Some of them don’t speak English, just Spanish. And when they look around and say, ‘What happened? What’s going on?’ They just saw the ticket in the windshield,” Escamilla told the local ABC affiliate.

Allentown Parking Authority’s Ted Zeller stated that the nine tickets were later downgraded to warnings once the enforcement officers “understood what was going on,” as reported by Lehigh Valley Live.

“The food drive blocked multiple streets and a local neighbor complained, so the officers acted in response,” Zeller said Monday, per the outlet, though he also told ABC6 that the parking authority “had no business issuing tickets to people waiting in a food line” and that he would not “try to defend it.”

Greenberg Lemus, a local restaurant owner, claimed that parking enforcement officers frequently issue tickets to suppliers making deliveries at his eatery. Although he pays the tickets himself, the cost is adding up.

“I have paid almost $9,000. Nine-thousand dollars since I first opened in October 2021. If this keeps up, I’m in trouble,” Leemus told ABC6.

Responding to residents’ complaints, Zeller announced on Wednesday that the parking authority would no longer conduct 24/7 patrols. Officers will now patrol from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with no parking patrols on Sundays, according to The Morning Call.

“If this continued abuse of power is not addressed and action is not taken, I will be forced to use my powers as Mayor to encourage responsible management of the Allentown Parking Authority,” Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk wrote in a statement Monday.

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