Last week, activists from the group Food Not Bombs -- including its cofounder -- were arrested in Orlando for trying to share food with homeless folks. The first arrestees violated a 2006 city ordinance that regulates mass feedings in parks. When others engaged in civil disobedience and continued to feed people, they were nabbed for trespassing.
A member of the Fort Lauderdale FNB group who gave his name as
Phillip Johnson says that there have been 24 arrests in Orlando so far. He explains that the Orlando ordinance dictates that "you can only share food with 25 people twice a year -- and you need a permit."
Johnson is a student who also runs an eco-friendly house cleaning service and spends hours each week dishing out vegan meals to the homeless. FNB feeds people at Stranahan Park on Tuesdays and Fridays, at Young Circle in Hollywood on Thursdays, and in Miami at Government Center on Wednesdays. Food is donated from schools, grocery stores, and catering companies that would otherwise throw it away. The group's mission is to divert spending from the military to basic human needs such as food, education, affordable housing, and health care.
Johnson says, "The city does want to kick us out of Fort Lauderdale. The police have been harsher lately --
there's been a lot more harrassment of the homeless." He noted the police surveillance tower that was installed in Stranahan Park months ago. FNB folks say police are attempting to
prohibit food from being given away anywhere but a single Salvation
Johnson says that FNB members have been going to city meetings over the past year to work out a deal with officials. "They want a different feeding location besides Stranahan Park. [But they have only suggested] really crappy areas in really bad parts of town. There was one building that [they said] we could feed in, but people who lived in that neighborhood complained: Not in my backyard."
On July 1, FNB is staging "Camp-Ins" at City Halls throughout the state. You can risk being labeled as a "food terrorist" by participating in the campaign. FNB will meet at Fort Lauderdale City Hall (115 S. Andrews Ave.) to feed people at 5 p.m. There will be makeshift houses to draw attention to the plight of the homeless and banners with refrains like the "Stop the criminalization of poverty!"