Broward News

Homeless Advocates Protest Outside Mayor Jack Seiler's Home

As reported earlier by New Times, a midmorning protest went on as scheduled outside of the home of Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler on Wednesday. About 60 homeless advocates and some homeless people carried signs and chanted outside the home while mounted police guarded Seiler's driveway.

The protest was the latest outcry by advocates who say the city's new ordinance is a violation against homeless people. The new ordinance laid down restrictions on public food sharing, essentially prohibiting feeding the homeless.

Arnold Abbott, a 90-year-old chef who heads the nonprofit Love Thy Neighbor, has already been cited twice by the city and is facing possible jail time.

See also: Group Hunger Strike and Protest at Mayor's House Planned in Opposition to Homeless Laws

The Sun Sentinel reports that protesters lined the street outside of Seiler's home and that police officers gathered in the driveway. At no time did the protest get out of hand, and no arrests were made.

Meanwhile, Seiler has continued his tour of defending the ordinance by appearing on local radio to discuss it and imply that certain homeless advocate groups may be behind Abbott's recent rejection of feeding areas offered by the city.

Seiler was interviewed by Rick Sanchez of WIOD-AM and said that Abbott was offered the Aquatics Complex located at 501 Seabreeze Blvd. as a place where he could give food to the homeless for his weekly Wednesday feedings.

But, Seiler says, Abbott rejected that offer, as well as a space by the Church by the Sea, located at 2700 Mayan Drive.

To that, Seiler says there might be a "larger agenda" behind Abbott turning down the spaces.

"It makes you wonder: Is the issue really feeding homeless, or is there a bigger agenda here?" Seiler told WIOD. He also blamed Food Not Bombs and the Homeless Voice for "hijacking" the outdoor feeding sites where the ordinance is enforced.

Seiler called the protesters by his home "outsiders" and said there were there "to agitate."

On Sunday, Seiler met with Abbott in a televised debate (although, it was more of a discussion) on the ordinance and Abbott's refusal to obey it.

"What Arnold is doing is actually a very kind and compassionate act," Seiler said during his TV appearance with Abbott. "We're just simply asking him to do it in a proper location."

See also: Fort Lauderdale's Controversial Homeless Feeding Restrictions Spark National Outrage

"We have tried many, many times to find indoor locations to feed the homeless," Abbott retorted. "And they have not been available to us."

Abbott also said said he'd be willing to move away from feeding the homeless at Stranahan Park if the the city would provide his group with an indoor facility to do its work.

"I'll be delighted to work with you," Seiler told Abbott.

On Friday, Seiler released a statement in response to the hundreds of angry emails over Abbott's run-in with police and over the city's ordinance.

"Contrary to reports, the City of Fort Lauderdale is not banning groups from feeding the homeless," part of the release reads. "At two recent outdoor food distributions, citations were rightly issued for non-compliance with the process enacted to ensure public health and safety. Contrary to what was reported in the media, no one was taken into custody. Had these activities taken place indoors, at a house of worship, they would have been in full compliance with the ordinance."

As for Abbott, he is expected to be at Fort Lauderdale Beach on Wednesday afternoon for his weekly feeding of the homeless, something he vowed he'd continue to do.

Last Wednesday, Abbott drew a large crowd of supporters and news cameras as he went about serving food to the homeless in his usual spot on Fort Lauderdale Beach, behind Bahia Mar.

Forty-five minutes into the feeding, Fort Lauderdale Police cited him and shut down the feeding as onlookers chanted Abbott's name in support.

Abbott could be facing up to 60 days in jail or be fined $500. But the threat of jail time isn't fazing him or other homeless advocates.

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph. Follow Chris Joseph on Twitter

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph