by Bailey Riley
Since mid-November, in Ft. Lauderdale, there have been multiple changes in approach and methods of action, both on the legislative end and in circles of those directly participating in the resistance against the homeless hate laws.
When the end of Jillian Pim’s second week of hunger strike was rolling around, over 700 people participated in a one-day solidarity fast, including some international folk. Subsequent to that, at least seven others joined her indefinitely. They all had the same goal in mind: starving themselves until the food sharing ban was either lifted or enforcement was ceased.
Arnold Abbot, the 90-year-old chef from Love Thy Neighbor, who was the first cited for sharing food under the ban, brought a law suit against the city which resulted in a 30-day injunction against the ban beginning on the third of December.
Later, the city tried to appeal the injunction on the ban, but the end result culminated with Judge Lynch, the initial ruling judge, extending the lift of the ban from 30 to 45 days.
News lately has it that there haven’t actually been any formal charges filed against Abbot, and it’s assumed that the same goes for the eight participants who were arrested at the sit-in at the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) office), the faction of the downtown government who pioneered the efforts for these laws to be born, on November 4.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Ft. Lauderdale police have hardly shown any enthusiasm for enforcing these ordinances—though numerous people have since been cited for sharing food at regular gatherings—and that the courts seem to harbor no concern over prosecuting people cited for sharing. It seems that the city is alone in their fight for these laws to stand.
In fact, it can be assumed that these laws, which criminalize houseless activity, are mere methods of intimidation.
Injunction or not, Ft. Lauderdale FoodNot Bombs (FNB) has continued their resistance and condemnation of the discriminatory laws by actively having demonstrations at restaurants owned by Tim Petrillo, who is the treasurer of the DDA and was a member of the “Homeless Task Force,” where there was a major push for these ordinances.
FNB has also focused on targeting some of the city’s key events, such as the annual “Christmas on Los Olas.” The Los Olas strip of downtown, which consists of restaurants and shopping centers, is pretty consolidated (88 percent) into the hands of one person, Michael Weymouth, who is the Vice Chair of the DDA — making the Los Olas stretch another focal point of protests.
Food Not Bombs has continued their weekly sharings, 4:30 pm on Fridays at Stranahan Park, in conjunction with these other activities.
On the first of December, the hacker group Anonymous showed their support for the resistance by effectively shutting down both JACKSEILER.COM (the mayor’s website) and FORTLAUDERDALE.GOV, thus bringing further attention to the issue.
With the police no longer enveloping the FNB sharings, there was a visible relaxation in the community, and many people who’d stopped participating in sharings returned. The injunction officially stopped as of January 5, and the police are again obliged to enforce and cite or arrest people participating in sharing food outdoors. Groups including Love Thy Neighbor, the Peanut Butter and Jelly Project, and Ft. Lauderdale Food Not Bombs will continue to challenge the illegality.
For more updates please visit http://homelesshatelaws.blogspot.com/.