Friday, July 9, 2010
In September I sketched the organization, Food Not Bombs as they feed the homeless at Lake Eola. At the time they were allowed to serve food because of a September 2008 court victory which stated that denying this group the right to feed people would be a violation of the groups first amendment rights. On July 6, 2010 the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed that opinion and there is once again an ordinance against feeding people in the park. The city attorney claimed that the feeding of people in the park was considered " an abusive use" of the park.
I went down to the park right after hearing about the ruling to see if Food Not Bombs would still offer food even when there was an ordinance that restricted such an act. When I arrived there was a small line of people waiting for clothing. A channel 13 news van was on site and video cameras and photographers were wandering around. I passed one angry man who didn't want to be on camera. He shouted, "Why do they consider this so news worthy now? What is so interesting about a bunch of people trying to get something to eat?" A woman next to him said, "I don't care if they take my picture so long as I get something to eat."
Someone shouted out that if people wanted clothes they should get in line. People sorted through the clothing for well over an hour. I started to think that maybe Food Not Bombs was going to get around the new ordinance by simply focusing just on clothing needs for now. But then I caught a whiff of some food being cooked behind me. A news helicopter hoovered above the small crowd. The loud sound was unnerving but I tend to gravitate to events where helicopters are needed.
In the picnic area with a nice wrought iron fence around it was now crowded with people having dinner conversations and sharing stories. Huge trees spiral up in this corner of the park, their thick trunks showing signs of hundreds of years of growth. A large white banner was hung on the fence that said "We will not stop till every stomach if full." It was obvious that Food Not Bombs was not about to cower away from their humanitarian mission because of some new legislation. This issue of public feeding had been bounced around the courts like a ping pong ball. The day may still come again when it is perfectly legal to help feed the people around you in need.