Aaron Jackson was prepared to be arrested for handing out 30 boxes of Little Caesars pizza in front of City Hall yesterday.
Instead, Fort Lauderdale Police officers cited Jackson, the president of Planting Peace who is known as a "CNN Hero" for his work deworming kids in Haiti and for painting a house the color of a rainbow in order to combat the hateful Westboro Baptist church. Police also cited Jill Machonis and Larry Murphy, two volunteers from the Homeless Voice newspaper, with notices to appear in court. Jackson says he'll be back in front of City Hall today at 4 p.m., while Homeless Voice founder Sean Cononie will be picketing outside Mayor John P. Jack Seiler's home Wednesday at 10 a.m.
"They want all people to be fed on the inside," says Jackson. "The reality is, a lot of homeless people have schizophrenia and things of this nature, and they don't want to go inside, so how do we deal with those people? They should have the right to be fed."
At 33, Jackson is also a former director of the COSAC Homeless Shelter, where the Homeless Voice operates. He expected the 30 pizzas to feed about 200 people in the area, while paper cups filled with electrolyte-infused Gatorade were offered to help the homeless wash down their dinner. "We can't disenfranchise those people; we must serve them... it should never be a crime to feed people, so if they choose to arrest us today, that's just how it'll have to be."
James Bonin, 55, has been homeless three years and was just walking past City Hall when he found out pizza was being handed out after spotting the news cameras.
"We don't have a list of the churches we're going to; nobody knows where to go to, to eat," Bonin says. "It's just not right what they're doing... The mayor ought to have more compassion for the people that are hungry. This is America; this isn't a third world country. Why are we letting people go hungry? ... It's just amazing that the city would go along with such a thing."
An hour after the popup handout began, there were roughly five boxes of pizza left.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler has been caught off-guard with the worldwide media attention the past week and has tried to publicize his point of view, and the city has set up a webpage called "Setting the Record Straight" in which Seiler writes:
Contrary to reports, the City of Fort Lauderdale is not banning groups from feeding the homeless. We have established an outdoor food distribution ordinance to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community. The ordinance does not prohibit feeding the homeless; it regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner.
Still, Peter Paul Christian, 72, has been homeless 60 weeks and calls the new ordinance regulating food sharing inhumane.
"The mayor? Here, go fuck yourself," says Christian, raising his middle finger as he downs another bite of his cheese slice. "Young punk thinks he has it all figured out, doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground... Hey, pal, maybe you'll be homeless in three years, or in jail."
Food Sharing Protests:
- Tuesday at 4 p.m.: Planting Peace City Hall feeding (100 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale 33301)
- Wednesday at 10 a.m. and around 5 p.m.: Picketing the Mayor's House (2849 NE 37th Court, Fort Lauderdale 33308)
- Friday: Solidarity Fast Against the Homeless Hate Laws
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!