By Linda St.Cyr, Contributing Writer
In Florida it is illegal for you to feed the hungry in large groups. If you do so without a permit you could face jail time and a large fine or both. The group, Food Not Bombs, had three volunteers arrested for, “violating Orlando’s ordinance regulating group feedings in some public parks.” Judge Thomas Kirkland has ordered Jonathan “Keith” McHenry and two other Food Not Bombs members to keep away from Lake Eola Park, where they were found feeding the homeless, for a year.
The Food Not Bombs members who were arrested were released from the Orange County Jail on $250 bail each. Each member received trespass warnings along with being banned from the park. What is appalling about this story is that the group was non-threatening, was in a public place that is open to everyone and was giving back to the community by serving the homeless who might go for several days without a good meal.
Orlando apparently has a city ordinance that regulates large group feedings. The regulations allow groups who feed more than 25 people access to no more than 2 permits a year for parks within a two-mile radius of Orlando City Hall. The regulation is appalling to human rights groups and anti-hunger activists. Jessica Cross, 24, who was arrested for feeding the hungry says, “It’s inhumane to tell people they should not give food to the hungry.”
Violators of Orlando’s group feeding regulations can face 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. Orlando Police said that Food Not Bombs received two permits to feed the hungry in public parks, one on May 18 and one on May 23, but failed to get permit for the large group feeding that took place on May 25th which prompted the arrests.
Ben Markeson, 49, another of the volunteers arrested, said in a press conference outside the county jail that Food Not Bombs feeds the hungry in public locations, “to protest poverty, war and other social inequalities.”
Personally, I wonder how it felt to be the police officers arresting the peaceful anti-hunger activist who were feeding the hungry. Do you think they are ashamed of their actions as defenders of the public?
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