Last Saturday around 10 p.m., young activists, Buddhists, and fire-spinners gathered to talk and sing in the backyard of a house in Fort Lauderdale that rents for $650 a month, is missing a few windows, and is a sore subject for Fort Lauderdale law enforcement.
The event was an all-afternoon benefit party for the SWAMP Collective, which houses the handful of young activists who run the Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs program, sharing vegan and vegetarian food with homeless and nonhomeless alike.
The city has been trying to control public food distribution, with Mayor Jack Seiler and a task force searching for a spot to corral food sharing, out of the sight of influential business owners and vocal residents. But at home, the activists have been facing a different kind of skirmish with the law, ever since the day in February when they say police entered the house and frisked its inhabitants.
Those people were mostly travelers -- the people on the lease weren't home, they say -- and have since disbanded to other parts of the country. When police arrived, they were sitting on the house's roof. One or more officers entered the house, loudly identifying themselves as police.
A few hours earlier, the power had been shut off by an FPL inspector who removed a haphazard quick-fix wire in the electric box that had been installed by the landlord, according to a current resident. Then the FPL inspector drove away, not stopping at any other houses on the street. Later, the cops came.
A police report from that day doesn't give any indication of the six to eight cop cars that the travelers say they encountered in the front lawn. But it does say that police were making multiple attempts to buy narcotics in the weeks leading up to the "raid."
The officer on the scene wrote in his report, "I had also conducted surveillance at this location in order to ascertain if there was unusual foot or vehicular traffic that would indicate possible narcotic sales. During my preliminary investigation, the above were all proved negative."
A door to a bedroom in the house still bears holes from where the residents say an officer tried to kick it in -- despite the fact that it opened outward -- and got his boot stuck. No official record of that either, as you might expect.
At the end of the report, the officer says that he "made contact with David Hitchcock who advised me he was the leaser of the home." Hitchcock, formerly homeless, is an active volunteer with Food Not Bombs. He and other current residents pooled their money to rent the house starting last October.
Swamp House Police Report
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PS. Nice Comic Sans, Detective!