Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Arrested for Feeding the Poor

Arrested for Feeding the PoorIt's hard to believe that this can happen in the United States in 2008.
Orlando Food Not Bombs (FNB) has been sharing food with the poor and homeless in Lake Eola Park since the summer of 2004. Some local business owners and residents, who were upset with seeing the poor fed in the park, complained to city government leaders. The mayor and city council reacted by passing an ordinance specifically designed to stop FNB from sharing food. The ordinance limits a group that is going to feed 25 or more people to no more than two such feedings in a park per year, and requires that a permit be obtained.

When the ordinance was first passed, the groups moved to the sidewalk and streets a block or so away from the park, but after continued city harassment moved back to the park. FNB, acting with churches and groups such as Code Pink and the ACLU, began sharing food in a manner that strictly complied with the ordinance. Each group would serve no more than 24 people, had a table clearly labeled with its name, and the dishes (which are collected and washed) were counted to make sure there were no more than 24.

Despite all of this, on April 4, 2007, at the conclusion of an Orlando police undercover investigation that, according to the Orlando Weekly, cost taxpayers $65,000, FNB member Eric Montanez was arrested. His alleged crime: feeding more than 24 people. His weapon: a ladle.
Fortunately, a jury subsequently found Montanez not guilty, but the saga is continuing. As Yakov Smirnoff used to say, "What a country!"

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