Broward News

Stephen Colbert Blasts Fort Lauderdale's Homeless Laws, Mayor Jack Seiler

Stephen Colbert kicked off Thursday night's episode of the Colbert Report by diving headlong into the recent reports of 90-year-old homeless advocate Arnold Abbott being cited twice by Fort Lauderdale Police for feeding the homeless in violation of the city's new restrictions on the practice.

The story, which New Times reported with video earlier this week, has been making international headlines, while Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler has been besieged with angry emails over Abbott's run-ins with police and the city's ordinance that places new obstacles to feeding the homeless in public.

See also: VIDEO: A 90-Year-Old and Two Clergymen Cited, Face Possible Jail Time, for Feeding the Homeless in Fort Lauderdale

Colbert, who -- in case you didn't know -- plays a character that's an amalgam of Fox News conservative taking heads Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity -- celebrated Abbott getting in trouble with police, starting the broadcast by saying, "I'm happy to report this week a dangerous fugitive has been brought to justice!"

Colbert then briefly explains the ordinance, which places new restrictions on feeding the homeless in public areas. Groups that want to feed the homeless now need to provide toilet facilities and get permission of the property owner.

"I say if the homeless want to eat, they should do it in the privacy of their own wherever those people live," Colbert says.

When Colbert said Abbott had been feeding the homeless out of a church (which wasn't quite accurate -- it was in Stranahan Park), Colbert thundered in with, "Clearly [Abbott] knows that Jesus said in Matthew, 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and LOOK OUT THE COPS ARE HERE! HIDE THE LOAVES AND THE FISHES!' They caught up to him, eventually."

Probably one of the funniest lines in the bit was the one that captures the seemingly ludicrous nature of the ordinance. After Colbert shows a snippet of Abbott telling a reporter that an office had demanded he drop a plate of food as if it were a weapon, Colbert says, "If George Zimmerman fed a guy in a hoodie, he'd be in jail."

You can watch the entire bit below.

The Colbert Report
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Meanwhile, in response to the emails and media attention, Seiler sent out a news release explaining that the ordinance does not ban groups from feeding the homeless and that no one has been arrested.

"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."

Of course, no one has been arrested (technically, he was cited) for this yet, but, as seen in the Colbert piece, Seiler says there will be arrests if people continue to disobey the ordinance.

Abbott, who has been cited twice and insists he'll keep feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach, faces jail time and a $500 fine.

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

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph