The war on America’s homeless continues in Fort Lauderdale, Rick Scott’s Florida, where two ministers and a 90-year-old homeless advocate face up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $500 for violating a city ordinance that outlaws sharing food with the homeless in public.
Out of sight, out of mind, am I right?
Arnold Abbot, head of the group Love Thy Neighbor, has been feeding homeless people for more than 20 years. Abbot, along with pastors Dwayne Blackhand and Mark Sims, were arrested on Sunday for violating the ordinance when they distributed food to the needy on a public sidewalk. Abbot described the encounter with the police as:
One of the police officers said, ‘Drop that plate right now,’ as if I were carrying a weapon. It’s man’s inhumanity to man is all it is.
Explaining the situation on Facebook, Abbot wrote:
As contemplated on Sunday, I was arrested for feeding the homeless and received a citation to appear in court. However, only 4 people were fed before an officer told me to, ‘Drop that plate immediately!’ As though it were a weapon I was holding, and to go with him to the police car. After a time I was allowed to get the food back on the van and we were able to find a small churches driveway, where we set up, and fed the people who followed us over.
The law, which the city commission voted in favor of on October 22, took effect last Friday and set limits on where outdoor feeding sites can be located. It also stipulates the required permission of the owners and states that groups have to provide their own portable toilets.
Commissioner Dean Trantalis told WRLN that he doesn’t feel the laws are mean-spirited or cruel. This ordinance is coupled with a number of ordinances that are designed to force the homeless away from the public eye; the city has also made it illegal to sleep in public places downtown and to beg for money at interceptions, for instance.
This isn’t the first time that Abbott and the city have bumped heads. He was stopped from feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale Beach in 1999, but he challenged the city and won. He was confident this time, as well:
I think that once the full story is out and people see the entire spectrum of services and initiatives in which the city is currently engaged, I think people will have a better understanding of our role in trying to help the homeless in our community.
Abbott has no plans on giving up the fight, either. He said on Facebook that he plans to continue fighting the good fight — and that included challenging the city.
On Wednesday at 5:30 we will feed on the beach. When confronted by the police, which I expect will happen, I will present them with a copy of the court order of 1999 which allowed us to feed on the beach, without interference from the city. It is my hope that they will honor that agreement but it is possible that they won’t, alluding to the new agreement which scrapped the old one, and I could be arrested again.
A volunteer with Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, Jillian Pim, said that she plans a hunger strike to protest the new ordinance.
I choose to go on hunger strike until this law is repealed or enforcement of it is stopped. I call on the people of Fort Lauderdale and everywhere else to demand that the Mayor, City Commission, Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development Authority, and all other supporters of these homeless hate laws abandon the criminalization of poverty
More power to her. Hopefully someone can ring some basic humanity into the city government.
You can watch the report from the Local 10 Affiliate below: