Two pastors and a 90-year-old activist were arrested Sunday in Florida for distributing food to homeless people on a public sidewalk.
Arnold Abbott, head of the group Love Thy Neighbor, and the Revs. Dwayne Blackand and Mark Sims, face up to two months in jail and a $500 fine for violating a Fort Lauderdale ordinance that limits where people can serve the homeless, Raw Story reported.
“As contemplated on Sunday, I was arrested for feeding the homeless and received a citation to appear in court,” Mr. Abbott, who has been feeding the homeless for more than 20 years, explained on Facebook. “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 city commission has been cracking down on homeless people, voting Oct. 22 to limit where outdoor feeding sites are located, as well requiring groups to provide the homeless with portable toilets. The law took effect Friday, Raw Story reported.
Jillian Pim, a volunteer with Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, said she plans to go on a hunger strike in protest of the new laws.
“I choose to go on hunger strike until this law is repealed or enforcement of it is stopped.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,” she said.
Commissioner Dean Trantalis said he doesn’t think the new laws are mean-spirited.
“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,” he told a local PBS affiliate.
Mr. Abbott said he plans to continue fighting the city over the feeding of homeless people.
“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,” he wrote on Facebook. “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.”