In defiance of a public ordinance
that bans 'large group feedings,' defined as gatherings that attract and feed more then 25 people, volunteers with "Foods Not Bombs" are being arrested in Orlando
, and there are appears to be no compromise in sight which will satisfy both city officials and event organizers.
The group's name and mantra "Food Not Bombs
" may sound innocent enough, but not to city of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who has referred to the volunteers as 'food terrorists
.' Dyer said organizers knowingly violate the law by providing free vegan and vegetarian meals to the hungry, within the city limits of Orlando. The organization operates in 1,000 cities, in over 60 countries feeding starving people.
"Food Not Bombs' was started
by eight friends in the Boston, Massachusetts, area in 1980 to protest the Seabrooke Nuclear station in nearby New Hampshire. Through a massive food gathering network that arranges food collection from grocery stores, bakeries, and markets, the mission of the organization is "to motivate the public to focus their resources on solving problems like hunger, homelessness and poverty while seeking an end to war and the destruction of the environment."
The group hopes that their example of how individuals can work together to provide essential needs like food, without the support of state, city and county officials, will motivate others to join in the grass-roots effort to affect change in the lives of those who need help with basic necessities, including housing, eduction, and heath-care.
The twice-weekly group-feedings in Lake Eola Park attract a variety of hungry people to the free meal, and this same element is what city officials are attempting to move out of public sight. Official's told the Sun Sentinel
that events that encourage gathering of "undesirable types to public parks, encourages littering and repels free-spending tourists from downtown — and downtown businesses." The city has offered an alternative solution that is considered unacceptable
by the leaders of "Food Not Bombs." They have suggested the group move to a location set up by the city for feeding the homeless.
Food Not Bombs said the location is no more then a caged area
, under a highway bridge, that isn't suitable for animals, much less the feeding of dozens of needy people.
At the most recent arrests, "volunteers stood behind a makeshift table, offering corn on the cob, pasta, rice, beans and watermelon to those in need," including many children. After more then 25 people were served city police officers moved in to arrest six more activists accused of violating the controversial ordinance, according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel
As hungry children were shoo'ed away, police led the peaceful volunteers to transport vehicle to be taken to the local jail and processed for their crime. Video of the arrests show that the volunteers are offering no resistance to the police officers, who are following instructions that have come down from the top
The homeless, some who are left behind without receiving the much needed daily meal, along with supporters and spectators could be heard chanting "food is a right, not a privilege" and "public parks, for public needs."
The group had presented their argument
to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which determined
that "city rules regulating how often large groups of people can be fed in a park do not violate the Constitution"
The twenty-one "Food Not Bombs" members who have been arrested in the past two weeks, face a $500 fine, 60 days in jail, or both for their criminal behaviour. Support for their efforts continue to build on the group's Facebook page
, where information on an upcoming rally to protest the arrests is being posted.
The Press Democrat
reports the Food Not Bombs leaders "have filed for an injunction against the city in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, which is presided over by Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr" Judge Perry has recently become nationally known as "the no-nonsense judge in the Casey Anthony murder trial."
Orlando "Food Not Bombs" volunteers say they will not give up on their efforts to feed the homeless. They vowed to continue the group feedings, despite the continued threat of arrest to "bring attention to what they consider an unjust law."