Orlando Activists Arrested For Feeding Homeless In Defiance Of City Ordinance
Over the past week, twelve members of food activist group Food Not Bombs have been arrested in Orlando for giving free food to groups of homeless people in a downtown park. They were acting in defiance of a controversial city ordinance that mandates permits for groups distributing food to large groups in parks within two miles of City Hall. Each group is allowed only two permits per park per year; Food Not Bombs has already exceeded their limit. They set up their meatless buffet in Lake Eola knowing that they would likely be arrested as a result.
The law was first passed in 2006, after local residents claimed that Orlando Food Not Bomb's twice-daily homeless feeding was becoming disruptive. A federal court ruled the ordinance unconstitutional in 2008, deciding that Food Not Bomb's activities are a protected form of free speech. But in April, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the earlier ruling. They agreed that feeding the homeless constitutes free speech, but argued that the Orlando ordinance does not infringe unreasonably on the group's rights. (An editorial in the Orlando Sentinel supported with the court's decision this morning. They note that "at least 10 organizations regularly serve food to the hungry downtown" without defying the law.)
Orlando Food Not Bombs maintains that the restrictions are unconstitutional and unjust. They have said that they plan to continue feeding the homeless despite the arrests.