Ray Cox, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida homeless man, attended a meeting in Fort Lauderdale in which City Commissioners were to declare November 16-22 “National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week” in the city. This face-saving measure comes in response to national criticism for the arrest of Arnold Abbott, a 90-year-old homeless man who was nabbed for the terrible crime of feeding the homeless, and two pastors who were helping with the endeavor.
Abbott was the first to face a penalty for a clever new city ordinance that virtually bans private individuals and groups from handing out food. The ordinance requires that people handing out food to the homeless be at least 500 feet from any residences, and limits feeding sites to one within a city block. The ordinance also requires that sites be more than 500 feet from one another.
“The commissioners sitting on this body have made a mockery of democracy and the city of Fort Lauderdale,”Jeff Weinberger said at the meeting, condemning commissioners for essentially criminalizing helping the homeless, “by virtue of their collective rejection of an overwhelming public outcry against ordinances that criminalize homelessness.”
Weinberger encouraged voters to fire the city council in next year’s election to send a clear message that this sort of regulation is unacceptable. As Weinberger spoke, Cox approached Mayor John Seiler to ask why police had stopped him as he was entering the meeting.
“If you’re going to disrupt the meeting, step outside,” Seiler coldly told the homeless man. “You’re welcome to come back in, when you’re done.”
“This used to be the United States of America! Not anymore! This is Ferguson!” Cox yelled as two officers dragged him out of the council chambers. “What the f*ck is going on here?” Cox asked as an officer placed the his hands behind his back. “I am a United States Citizen,” he yelled as he proudly declared his humanity for the world — something that, unfortunately, is necessary in Fort Lauderdale.
Cox was arrested on a warrant for a missed court date, but one must wonder why he was removed from a meeting simply for asking the Mayor why he was harassed by police because he wanted to attend a public meeting.
Weinberger called for Mayor Seiler’s immediate resignation but, unfortunately, he’d have to realize he did something wrong to want to resign. Weinberger spoke of the city’s mission to “push the homeless out of sight.” The real tragedy is that this very thing happened at a meeting that purportedly happened to discuss raising awareness for the homeless.
The shameful behavior of Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Council will, unfortunately, continue until voters stand up to the tyranny at the ballot box next year.