The international peace organization, Food Not Bombs, has been opposing war and feeding healthy vegan meals to homeless people in public parks across the US for about 30 years but, while the group has never been bigger, it also has never experienced the heightened level of police oppression which lately seems to go hand in glove with the everyday level of oppression we see against the homeless community in general. From Venice Beach, CA, to sunny Ft. Lauderdale, FL, criminalization of the homeless and their advocates is on the rise.
In February, approximately a dozen Fort Lauderdale Police made an unwarranted raid of a collective house - affectionately known as The SWAMP - shared by local FNB activists. To complement their unlawful entry and kicking in of a bedroom door, police subjected those present to illegal searches and harassment which included explicit suggestions that the group was a terrorist organization and/or training center or, at best, black bloc anarchists. Attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild have stepped up to represent the group.
The week beginning on May Day was particularly challenging. Following a day of traditional May Day celebrations, the group sponsored a game of "Capture the Battle Flag" in the downtown area. Harmless enough, right, with a bunch of kids of all ages having a blast, running around the streets dressed like a cross between Mad Max and RuPaul? Not according to FLPD, which saw fit to arrest two of the participants - both FNB members well-known to them - for trespassing onto one of the many capacious corporate lawns which are contiguous with downtown sidewalks and separated from them by nothing but the air.
The remainder of the week merely saw two FLPD visits to The SWAMP, one under the guise of a search for a longtime ex-tenant with an outstanding bench warrant (the cops demanded to be let in and were denied), the other merely to take photos from a passing cruiser (intended to be on the sly) - a regular occurrence. And last Tuesday the ubiquitous Officer J. Czech - a cop who seems to relish harassing the homeless - stood intimidatingly in the space where the food sharings occur, harassing the homeless and FNB together under the Stranahan Park gazebo. To top it off a park ranger and FLPD ally commandeered and tore up a sign the group had made which condemned police oppression.
Against a backdrop of impending new ordinances banning public food sharing - based on a very recent ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals relating to Orlando Food Not Bombs - the police in Ft. Lauderdale and elsewhere have assumed they have a green light to proceed with all kinds of unconstitutional mayhem against peaceful organizations. It's past time to make them see RED!
A legal case in which the City of Orlando is willing to spend several hundred thousand dollars to defend its right to ban public food sharing; an illegal raid on a peaceful collective house leased by Food Not Bombs members; a police surveillance tower intimidatingly located in an otherwise serene public park where homeless people gather to rest and to eat; arrests of people for feeding the homeless; more arrests targeting FNB members participating in a harmless public game of "Capture the Battle Flag"; laws criminalizing feeding and even the mere offering of charity to the homeless; this is just a thin slice of what the homeless and their advocates face in today's increasingly fractured society of Haves and Have-nots. If we don't stand up for the downtrodden now, it will be too late tomorrow.
Join us in telling Fort Lauderdale's Mayor Jack Seiler and Chief of Police Frank Adderley that enough is enough. Hands off Food Not Bombs! Hands off the homeless in Fort Lauderdale, Florida!! NO to all bans on food sharing in public parks!!! Eating, like sharing, is a Human Right!!!!