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3 Arrested in Orlando for Feeding Homeless

Orlando's Lake Eola Park, where the Food Not Bombs members were arrested
Lake Eola Park, where the Food Not Bombs members were arrested

Orlando police arrested 3 members of Food Not Bombs last week for feeding the homeless.

When my little sister was at UCF years ago, she told me about police cracking down on folks from Food Not Bombs for feeding the homeless, but it sounded like there was a lot of public outcry, and I went on my merry way assuming that kind of thing wasn’t happening any more. I was wrong.

Three activists from Food Not Bombs were arrested in Orlando last week for feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park. Police charged them with intentionally violating a city ordinance, because in April the group was unable to obtain a permit to operate in the park.

Ben Markeson spoke with the the press following his arrest. Here are some clips from The Orlando Sentinel:

What this really boils down to is this: the rich condo and home owners around Lake Eola Park do not want homeless people in their neighborhood, and Food Not Bombs encourages homeless people to come to the park for the free food. Activists Jessica Cross, Benjamin Markeson, and Jonathan McHenry are facing $500 fines and up to 60 days in jail with bail set at $250 apiece.

What do you guys think? Are the Food Not Bombs folks in the wrong, or would you consider this a non-violent protest?

h/t: OrlandoSentinel.com.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Joal Mann

14 comments
  1. Gina

    In my opinion, I don’t think Food Not Bombs can be blamed for “encourag[ing] homeless people to come to the park.” Everytime I go to Lake Eola, the homeless population is well represented, and is going to continue to be at the park whether or not Foods not Bombs is offering food. By prohibiting such activist groups, the City of Orlando is not really addressing homelessness, but is merely attacking Food Not Bombs response to homelessness.

  2. alex

    Rich ppl are assholes, period. The case is really that they don’t want them around where they live. I am from Sarasota and there is a lot of wealth there and I am sure it wouldn’t surprise anyone if I told them they are one of the hardest counties in the state about bums, over 75 % of the arrests on the sheriffs website are homeless ppl and it is because they simply just don’t like them lingering around b/c it looks bad for the city.

  3. nanook

    thanks for the write-up. the cities of orlando, st pete, and fort lauderdale are all trying to criminalize helping the homeless. orlando is the furthest long; there were actually 4 more arrested in orlando monday. fnb is asking compassionate people whereever they may be to come to orlando and defy this ban which is a violation of basic human rights.

    fnb does indeed go where the homeless are. the only situations where they are encouraging people to be in the park is when they are being harassed and intimidated into leaving when they have no other place to go, which happens all the time. a lot of people can’t understand that homeless people are mostly very vulnerable and come to these larger public parks because there are few places in these urban environments that they can spend their time at where they aren’t at risk of being jumped or abused, by cops, other bums, or other predators.

    public outcry is what stopped it before. hopefully that happens again….

  4. Cyril

    Food not bombs wasn’t doing anything that should be considered illegal. I mean you can draw up charges and just about arrest anyone, but if you look at things from a bigger picture they weren’t doing anything at all that would endanger anyone in the public. Hope this story gets a lot of publicity.

  5. amy

    “Police charged them with intentionally violating a city ordinance, because in April the group was unable to obtain a permit to operate in the park”.
    Source: Eat Drink Better (http://s.tt/12BS3)

    Did no one read this part??? Yes what they were doing was wonderful and I am all for it…However just because you are doing something that is great it does not mean you can ignore the local laws. If they were supposed to have a permit and they knew they didn’t then they knew they were breaking the LAW! Plain and simple, there are plenty of places around FL or the world for that matter that you can go and help the homeless so why do it somewhere that you can get arrested at?

        1. brian

          That is a horrible argument, just because there is a law, does not make it just. There used to be a law that said black people had to sit at the back of the bus, and Rosa Parks broke that law, rightfully so. Bye breaking unjust laws we can bring attention to the inequality happening here and in this way raise the public consciousness and help to overturn such an unjust law. I believe feeding the homeless takes precedence over public ordinances put in place to pacify the rich who are unwilling to share their neighborhood, much less their food.

          1. Donna

            You can’t compare racial discrimination to vagrancy laws. The fact is that the feeding can be done elsewhere. If the activists are so convinced that these homeless people are just like all other people and should be treated as such (access to the park), then why don’t they take them home and let them hang in their own house, sleep in their beds, eat at their tables? We all know why they don’t. Their activism is hypocritical. The law is correct and should be obeyed. They can feed them elsewhere.

  6. Keyser

    Please don’t confuse the legal requirement with a moral obligation. The two are separate and distinct. Local elected bodies are afforded discretion to enact ordinances, and are equally empowered to repeal ordinances. Although civil disobedience has its place in history, the appropriate forum is to approach city councils with alternatives, such as designated times or certain exemptions. While we may feel morally obligated to feed our fellow man, individuals who permanently reside in proximity to said park have legitimate concerns since homelessness, as a fact, attract other unlawful behavior (drug use, etc).

  7. Josh

    Its whatever…both views can be seen…if I just happen to have extra food on me and I know I’m not gonna need it, yeah I’d give it to them. I can also see the view that…”there’s jobs out there, there’s opportunities…dont be afraid to go back to square one.”

  8. Minnie

    Why did they deny them the permit, if as they say,they were not causing a disturbance. There are homeless people everywhere in our country and around the world, because of our current economy. This is a complex issue taht needs to be addressed in a civil way. Just because there is a law on the books does not make it a right or just law. There still are plenty of laws in effect all over this country that should be abolished because they discriminate against people for various reasons. I think these people have good intentions and should be seen as that. They are being made out as “criminals”. The men who signed the constitution in their time were viewed as “treasonus people” for disobeying the current laws.

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