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Police, Food Not Bombs cooperate to bring homeless feeding arrests to 15

June 13, 2011

Yawn. Police arrested three more Food Not Bombs volunteers this morning at Lake Eola Park for violating the city’s recently reinstated Large Group Feeding ordinance. The arrests continued the routine of the last two weeks–the group intentionally defies the ordinance, the city makes arrests, and a new batch of volunteers is arrested the following feeding. Among the arrested was 61 year-old Pat Fitzpatrick, a smoking cessation counselor and activist who drove from Gainesville to get arrested. “It’s a fascist law, and it’s anti-American,” he said of the ordinance.

Also among the arrested was Palmer Harrell, 22, and Ash Albinson, a 24 year-old wearing long sleeves in preparation for jail. “It’s cold in a lockup,” she said, roughly 30 seconds before being cuffed by Orlando police.

Below is the Weekly‘s video of the event; the shouting in the background is coming from Food Not Bombs member Mark Stephens, who was quoted in our May 26 Happytown™ coverage of the unfolding fracas.

UPDATE: We would be remiss to mention the “list of demands” from Food Not Bombs issued on Friday:

Issued June 10, 2011

Orlando Food Not Bombs has retained Shayan Elahi as its legal counsel for this stage of our struggle. Mr. Elahi also represents many of those who have been arrested under the City of Orlando’s anti-food sharing ordinance.

Jacqueline Dowd, Esq., no longer represents Orlando Food Not Bombs. We are grateful to Ms. Dowd for her tireless dedication to our cause during the federal lawsuit, and the trials stemming from the arrests of our members in 2007. We commend Ms. Dowd for the large amount of pro bono work that she continues to perform for poor and homeless people  and wish her continued success with those efforts.

Orlando Food Not Bombs welcomes negotiations with the City; however, we will not give up our right as an Orlando-based group to share food with other members of the public in what is supposed to be our public park. That is non-negotiable. It is morally unacceptable to us to accede to the City’s desire to discriminate against people because of their socio-economic status. We will not betray our principles and betray the people who need the food that we provide. We also will not give up our free speech rights, which we use by holding the sharings to call attention to society’s failure to address problems of poverty and inequality.

We use the small part of Lake Eola that has been designated by the City for food consumption twice a week for a total of four hours. Initially we were on the Rosalind Avenue side of the park. At the request of park rangers, we voluntarily moved to the picnic area. A year later, in an act of bad faith, the City passed an ordinance that, essentially, bans food sharings by us and other groups, many of them faith-based.

Our food sharings do not in any way interfere with the ability of other members of the public to enjoy the park or the neighborhood. Indeed it is only because of the media coverage that many downtown residents are even aware that any food sharings occur in the park.

Our Demands:
–That Mayor Buddy Dyer declare a moratorium on enforcement of the anti-food sharing ordinance
–That Mayor Buddy Dyer meet with Orlando Food Not Bombs and other anti-poverty activists to initiate dialogue on issues of hunger and poverty in our community
–That Mayor Buddy Dyer changes his policy of criminalizing poverty and focuses on addressing the root causes of poverty in our community–the abundance of low-wage jobs and the  lack of affordable housing and social services
–That charges be dropped against all those arrested under the ordinance
–That the trespass warnings for Lake Eola Park issued to those arrested be rescinded

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