Orlando: Food Not Bombs volunteers arrested for serving free food

DABC Note: We know that we’re a bit late in the game for this news, but we wanted to post this video, and also shout out some solidarity to our comrades in Florida!

Orlando: Food Not Bombs loses Federal appeal

From the Christian Science Monitor:

A group of political activists in Orlando have lost their battle to establish that feeding the homeless is an act of political expression fully protected by the First Amendment.

In a decision announced Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled against the group, Orlando Food Not Bombs, and gave a green light to city officials to enforce an ordinance restricting weekly feeding of the homeless in downtown parks.

“The city is in a far better position than this court to determine how best to manage the burden that large group feedings place on neighborhoods in the city,” Circuit Judge William Pryor wrote for the unanimous decision of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

In a 15-page decision, the court said it was assuming, without deciding, that feeding the homeless in a public park was a form of expressive conduct entitled to some level of protection under the First Amendment.

But the court went on to decide that the city’s ordinance was a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction on the free speech rights of Orlando Food Not Bombs.

“The ordinance as applied to the feedings of homeless persons by Orlando Food Not Bombs does not violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment,” Pryor wrote.

The action reverses a federal judge’s injunction that had permanently blocked the city from enforcing an ordinance restricting the use of downtown parks for large-scale feedings.

Continue reading

Florida: Police raid SWAMP Collective House

In the recent five months, tensions between the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and Food Not Bombs activists have escalated. Within this time, The FLPD has not only prevented multiple groups from sharing in Stranahan Park, but has installed a police surveillance tower in the park amidst repeated verbal assault against Food Not Bombs activists.

On Thursday, February 17th, an FPL electricity inspection led to the power being turned off at the home of activists frequently the target of police harassment. The electricity bill had been paid prior to this. Several hours later, all tenants had left the house while a few guests remained. During this time, an unwarranted police raid took place under the premise of ‘uninhabitable’ living conditions. The house was deemed ‘uninhabitable’ due to the lack of electricity, which had been turned off that morning. House guests were pulled from the house and searched by over a dozen officers, who kicked in unlocked doors and, with a K-9 unit, searched the house with no specific intent. One female guest was frisked and inappropriately touched by a male officer. More troubling still, officers were questioning the political orientation of the house guests. They asked if the house was a ‘militant training camp’, and whether or not the guests were “terrorists” or affiliated with “black bloc”. Before the FLPD left the house, they threatened to repeat raids weekly.
[Stop. Lawyer time.]

The Food Not Bombs activists in Fort Lauderdale are not involved in any of the activities suggested by the police. Rather, activities organized out of the house include free bike repair, FNB gatherings and sharing of food with the homeless, animal rights activities, candle making workshops, foreclosure & civil rights activism, etc. We, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, strongly condemn the intimidation tactics which include the police surveillance tower in Stranahan Park, unwarranted police raids, and the criminalization of community activism. Broward County officials have already targeted the poor and disenfranchised. Now the range has been expanded to include those who dare to help them. We call on South Florida activists to stand with us in solidarity as we struggle against the city’s efforts to repress the homeless and community-based activism.

In solidarity,
Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs

For more information, send an email to WDirect08@aol.com or SWAMPZine@gmail.com.

UPDATE: Fort Lauderdale Police returned to the activists home on Saturday, February 19th at around 9:00PM. The two officers did not attempt a repeat of Thursday’s raid, but rather briefly insulted and intimidated one of the tenants and their guests. The police entered the house, with permission from the tenant but then left shortly afterward.