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Since last month's arrest of Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry in Orlando for violating that city's ordinance against holding mass feedings in public parks, the free-food group has been organizing protest events around the state and country.
Yesterday afternoon around a dozen Food Not Bombs activists, mostly young people, gathered in Stranahan Park to hold a feeding in the rain for a gathered crowd of the homeless and down-and-out.
At the Stranahan gazebo, activist Hailee Becker attempted to get the attention of her peers and the gathered homeless people, explaining: "The Orlando ordinance makes it illegal to hold feedings in public places. In one month, we've had 25 members arrested. Fort Lauderdale stated that they want to enact a similar ordinance."
In the coming weeks, we'll have more from Fort Lauderdale officials on the lurching plans to consolidate feeding operations into something that the city and activists like Becker can agree on.
Food Not Bombs says it's not about charity, but reducing waste in the food system. "When grocery stores overstock their shelves, they end up throwing away all the old stuff," said a group organizer, Phil Johnson.
The donated and scavenged spread included homemade pasta, vegetarian dishes, baked goods, a large cardboard box filled with frosted donuts, a crate of hamburger buns.
"Want some cake?" another Food Not Bombs member asked people at the gazebo. "My mom made it."
"Do you have any pizza left?" asked one older man.
"No, but we do have some delicious veggies," said a volunteer, pointing toward a large pot of stew.
Then the group gathered about 15 people to walk a block to city hall, where they gathered holding signs protesting the city's efforts to curb feedings. "Free Keith," read one of the signs, referring to the group's arrested founder.
Mara Shlackman, a lawyer with the National Lawyers' Guild, was present wearing a day-glo green cap to serve as a "legal observer," who could report details of any unrehearsed interactions with police. "If the cops show up, we have to document any interactions that might occur," she said.
The group has a bail fund to assist members who are arrested during peaceful protests.
The first hour or so of the protest was uneventful. Some of the volunteers planned to camp out by city hall overnight.
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