"Food Not Bombs" Activists Say Cops Don't Want Them to Give Vegan Food to Homeless

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An activist group that plants itself in Stranahan Park claims police intimidation is making it increasingly difficult to give food to the hungry and homeless.

Food Not Bombs member Phill Johnson said that several activists were arrested two weeks ago as part of an effort to force the group out of the park. He also said officers took a sign that said "No police intimidation tactics" -- and, in a fit of irony, tore it up.

Food Not Bombs is an international activist organization that hands out free vegan and

vegetarian meals as a way to protest war. The Fort Lauderdale chapter comes to Stranahan Park every Tuesday and Friday. Johnson says police have intimidated local members in an effort to chase them from the downtown Fort Lauderdale park.

"They do want us to get out of the park," Johnson said. "When they've tried to move [the feeding spot], the whole community comes out against it... They just really want to get the problem out of sight."

Fort Lauderdale Police Department spokesman Det. Travis Mandell said the arrests were for trespassing and had nothing to do with involvement in Food Not Bombs. He said he hadn't heard anything about the sign.

City spokesman Chaz Adams said he doesn't "think anyone's trying to kick them out of the park."

Food Not Bombs complained in February that police illegally entered a house and groped a female in the raid. A police rep disputed those claims and said the group is "certainly free to serve food however they want."

After the arrests a couple weeks ago, a member of Food Not Bombs wrote an eyewitness account of the incident on an anarchist website. It claims the men were "in the midst of a heated, exuberant and utterly harmless game of 'Battle Flag,' were defending the territory between SE 3rd Ave. and Federal Hwy... when the cops moved in." The post's author then goes on to write that the police were "retaliating, and extending a pattern of harassment against Food Not Bombs."

But the witness added the capture-the-flag players were "dressed in costumes ranging from post-apocalyptic to variations on a theme by the New York Dolls," which could have contributed to the attention they were getting.

Hunter, one of the two players arrested, said the first arrest was prompted when police said another player walked on a private lawn after being warned not to. Hunter said he believes he was arrested because Food Not Bombs members were photographing the first arrest: He's charged with trespassing after he cut through a commercial building during the game, but he said he wasn't recognized until the photographs started, 30 minutes to an hour after he cut through the building.

As for the issue of relocating the feeding place, Adams,

the city's spokesman, promised a more thorough response that the Pulp will post soon. For now, he said: "It's a very complicated issue, and there are a lot of different folks who are involved with it."

Follow The Pulp on Facebook and on Twitter: @ThePulpBPB.

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