Arnold Abbott, the 90-year-old chef and activist that has been cited several times for feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale will be speaking at a mass rally and march scheduled for Saturday.
The rally, which will take place at the Federal Courthouse located at 299 East Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, which will also feature food sharing at Stranahan Park, will have homeless folks speaking as well.
The rally is a call to protest the city's recent city ordinance that places restrictions on the sharing of food at outdoor sites. The new restrictions require that feedings be located 500 feet from any residence and that feeders provide portable toilets.
Abbott has become the face of the anger over the ordinance, which has garnered national attention. The 90-year-old founder of the non-profit Love Thy Neighbor has been cited at least three times for feeding the homeless meals he prepared for them on Fort Lauderdale beach.
Despite the citations, and one officer telling him to "drop that plate," during one of the encounters, Abbot has vowed to keep showing up Wednesday at the beach to feed the homeless -- something he's been doing for years.
The citations has marred Fort Lauderdale's image, and brought negative attention to Mayor Jack Seiler, who has admitted that the city could have done better in getting out the message over why the ordinance was put in place.
"We were wrong in not getting the word out sooner," he said in a television appearance with Abbot earlier this month. "And in fairness to Arnold, we should have sat down with him, making sure that he was onboard. But obviously that message got lost, and I apologize."
Seiler said he would work with Abbott to find a suitable location to have him and other advocates feed the homeless. But, the protest organizers say that's a lie.
"Over the past seven months the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, led by Mayor Jack Seiler, has waged an unprecedented assault on the very existence of homeless persons within its borders," a press release from the mass organizers reads. "In recent weeks Seiler's repeated claims about the existence of alternatives to the newly criminalized outdoor food sharing sites have been exposed as false by Pastor Frank Pontillo of REMAR USA, and subsequently by local media, including Seiler's statement that the city is "working with some 70 churches (and) some 20-plus organizations. They're all feeding on a daily basis."
The rally, which is co-endorsed by homeless advocate groups such as Broward Coalition to End Homelessness, National Coalition for the Homeless, The Homeless Voice, Project Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Tri-County Anonymous, Pax Christi at St. Maurice's Catholic Church, among others, is a call for non-violent resistance to the ordinance which they say criminalizes homelessness.
Along with Abbott, other advocates are scheduled to speak, including The Rev. Canon Mark Sims, and Rev. Dwayne Black -- both of whom were also issued citations for feeding the homeless.
The Rally for the Homeless: End Criminalization Now! protest is set to kick off at 11:00 a.m. Saturday at the courthouse, and head over to Stranahan Park, located 10 E. Broward Boulevard, from there. At the park, the group will have music, the guest speakers and share food with the homeless.
You can visit their Facebook page for more information