Florida Activists Arrested For Feeding Homeless, Facing A Penalty Of 60 Days In Jail, A $500 Fine Or Both

Who else is said to have intentionally violated the statute in feeding the poor (and healing the sick)?

Three arrested, accused of illegally feeding homeless (Orlando Sentinel, June 2, 2011):

Members of Orlando Food Not Bombs were arrested Wednesday when police said they violated a city ordinance by feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park.

Jessica Cross, 24, Benjamin Markeson, 49, and Jonathan “Keith” McHenry, 54, were arrested at 6:10 p.m. on a charge of violating the ordinance restricting group feedings in public parks. McHenry is a co-founder of the international Food Not Bombs movement, which began in the early 1980s.

The group lost a court battle in April, clearing the way for the city to enforce the ordinance. It requires groups to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per year for each park within a 2-mile radius of City Hall.

Arrest papers state that Cross, Markeson and McHenry helped feed 40 people Wednesday night. The ordinance applies to feedings of more than 25 people.

“They intentionally violated the statute,” said Lt. Barbara Jones, an Orlando police spokeswoman.

Police waited until everyone was served to make the arrests, said Douglas Coleman, speaking for Orlando Food Not Bombs.

“They basically carted them off to jail for feeding hungry people,” said Coleman, who was not present. “For them to regulate a time and place for free speech and to share food, that is unacceptable.”

Orlando Food Not Bombs has been feeding the homeless breakfast on Mondays for several years and dinner on Wednesdays for five years.

Police had not enforced the ordinance while the court battle continued. The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that city rules regulating how often large groups of people can be fed in a park do not violate the Constitution.

The penalty for violating Orlando’s ordinance is 60 days in jail, a $500 fine or both.

Arrest documents state that Orlando Food Not Bombs received permits and fed more than 25 homeless people at Lake Eola Park on May 18 and 23. Coleman said the group rejected the permits.

On May 25, Orlando Food Not Bombs illegally fed a large group of homeless people, the police report states. The group on its website called for members to show up that day and defy the city ordinance, according to the report.

Officers said they found a press release on Markeson when they arrested him stating that group members planned to defy the ordinance Wednesday.

Bail was set at $250 for each person arrested. Cross and Markeson were released from jail early

Thursday. McHenry wants to stay in jail and let the legal process take its course, Coleman said.

4 thoughts on “Florida Activists Arrested For Feeding Homeless, Facing A Penalty Of 60 Days In Jail, A $500 Fine Or Both”

  1. what is so wrong to give food to the hungry ? let these people do good it is helping the poor.help them by setting a place like a hall or church close by to do this.

  2. Let’s take people that ease suffering in society (and probably have day jobs that function in society) out of society? Let’s put them in prison where each person added is a drain on the prison fund that tax payers supply. This is a very “do what your told” type of thing that is set up by people that don’t have to carry out the enforcement directly.

    What some people want and what is good for people can be very different things.

    How does a law enforcement officer feel about upholding the law in this way? I doubt they imagined policing would be such sillynes when they were in boot camp busting their but.

    How does it make sense to take people out of society that are feeding themselves and others and put them in a prison where they have to be fed and kept warm by taxpayer money?

  3. A government should not hold people to laws and statues which take away from peopls basic rights. The right to eat and exist in an area which is safe. In a park paid for by the people, feeding the people…who pays for the people that arrest the people? Change the stupid “statute”! That’s what I say. Where do I sign?

    And can’t they put everything up for us to vote on? I mean people could use computers in libaries. Or cell phones. Or both. And if you don’t have a cell phone or know where a library is, then maybe those people shouldn’t be voting. I’d do legwork for that cause.


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