Saturday, August 23, 2014

Suffering in The Shadow of Miami

The same week the City of Ft Lauderdale considered ever harsher anti-homeless laws, Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced his  intent to require Miami-Dade police officers to wear body cams. Gimenez linked this request to recent anti-police protests in Ferguson, Missouri, saying that they would "assure that there's confidence in the police department." Admittedly, Miami's police has occassionally caused reason for concern. 

Now contrast this progress to the City of Fort Lauderdale, whose agenda last week included new ordinances that will expand the situations in which the FLPD will be able to arrest homeless people for sleeping, urinating, storing their belongings, and asking for money in public. Fort  Lauderdale's modern day "Bumbuster Squad" for years have enjoyed nearly universal control over whether or not homeless people's bodily functions are going to get them arrested in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

However, Miami is already going one further than the body cams, since they are also legally prohibited from interfering with a homeless person who is engaged in an activity necessary to sustaining life. Since 1998, the Pottinger Agreement has protected the rights of homeless people do things like urinate, sleep, even bathe in public in the City of Miami.

Outside Main Library 6.14
Now to be sure Miami is not some shining city to be exactly emulated...there is no such place. But there is an important difference between Cities who are trying to improve on terrible mistakes they've made, versus Fort Lauderdale, which has consistently been treating homeless people like vermin to be disposed of for 20 or 30 years now with no change in attitude. Miami's attrition against their homeless population was going nowhere, and they changed that dynamic. Miami's cops behaved brutally, and now there's a chance at greater oversight of their actions.

Fort Lauderdale does not seem to be learning from its mistakes. Unfortunately, legally protecting the rights of homeless people and requiring their police to wear bodycams would be  virtually impossible in Fort Lauderdale because it would severely interrupt the only plan they have had for years for dealing with homeless people: Uninterrupted, systemic oppression. If the City was no longer able to wrongfully harass, ticket, and arrest homeless people whenever a police officer feels like it, they would be left with no plan at all for dealing with them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Epic Filibuster, Vigil Keeps The Focus On Homelessness

As the fall session of the Fort Lauderdale City Commission convened, the actions of the City's public officials couldn't help but dog them.

War On The Homeless: Jaywalking Blitz Edition
FLPD ticketing jaywalkers next to Stranahan Park (from Invisible People FtL)

Homeless advocates couldn't even get to the Commission without being caught up in the City's discriminatory tactics towards the homeless - Broward Boulevard was turned into a giant jaywalking trap! Coincidentally focused on the exact areas that homeless people live in downtown, FLPD was handing out $60 tickets to anyone who didn't strictly adhere to the crosswalk lights, including two contributors to this blog. While two officers involved insisted this was not about homelessness, none of the 3 homeless advocates that observed this procedure saw tickets being issued to anyone other than FLPD's usual targets in downtown, homeless people and young black males.

The walk-up to City Hall had another spectacular reminder of the City's mistakes coming back to haunt them; this roving billboard was parked out front. The City has made few friends this year!

Vigils and "Hijackers"

Raymond Cox, filibuster savant
It's true, without the dedication of homeless advocates this Ft Lauderdale City Commission would've been utterly forgettable, a bureaucratic tragedy. One homeless advocate described their experience as "3 1/2 hours, and nothing was addressed," although an hour was given over to talking about "pineapples." Fortunately as described by the Sun Sentinel, Raymond Cox "hijacked" the meeting, signing up to speak on every agenda item and inevitably tying them back to the City's apathetic, harmful approach to helping homeless people.

Completely separately, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs was joined by congregants from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale for a silent vigil outside City Hall.

It seemed that no matter how much the City wanted to talk about spending money on swimming pools and limousines and figuring out how they could tax the internet (yes really this all was on the agenda), the City's pathetic homeless policies, which have recently been described by mainstream media outlets as "ethnic cleansing" and a "war on the homeless", just won't go away. Kudos to Raymond Cox for making sure the inhumane treatment of human beings took precedent over Olympic-size swimming pools and zoning restrictions! 

We will be back with more soon, and so will the City of Fort Lauderdale - the next commission meeting is Wednesday, 9.3.2014, and they will likely be discussing all the same homeless ordinances that they tabled at this meeting. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Anti-Homeless Laws Return August 19th

On Tuesday, August 19th, the City of Fort Lauderdale will have almost every anti-homeless law that they proposed back in January on the schedule. While most are expected to be deferred until the next meeting on September 3rd, it shows the City is still quite determined to see all the Homeless Hate Laws enacted this fall.

One way or another ordinances or amendments to ordinances for the public indecency code, and expansions against panhandling, storage on public property, and camping on public property are all scheduled on the agenda and open to public comment. Join homeless advocates as we continue to convince the City to stop these laws.

Park closed 8.15.2014
The bigger picture for the homeless folk in downtown Fort Lauderdale is even darker. "All Aboard Florida" is coming with a major redevelopment plan for the area surrounding the downtown bus terminal - one of the primary areas that homeless people are still allowed to congregate around downtown. But talks of "promoting commerce" with the building of condos and shops is also a veiled threat at the dozens of people who live in this area because of its current lack of value. And if you want a cursory example of how homeless people's freedom of movement downtown is determined entirely by the wealthy and powerful, look no further than Stranahan Park, which was closed again on Friday because the Women's Club was doing an event next door.

Beyond the suffering that will be created by these laws, this will also leave only one remaining proposal from the  batch  created by the City back in January: a public sharing ban. The City approving these 4 laws will mean that all their attention will be focused on stealing food from out of the mouths of hungry people. We have to stop them!
First the park is filled and fenced...will these sharings disappear as well?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"War on The Homeless" On The SFL News

Last night's investigation piece by Bob Norman shed a light on homelessness in Ft Lauderdale in a refreshing way. How so? The most oppositional voice featured was City Commissioner Dean Trantalis. Besides that, longtime downtown homeless people and advocates told their stories and the effects of Homeless Hate Laws.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Since the City is still on recess, this should be an interesting reflection for the people of Fort Lauderdale about the cost of enforcing the new way of life in downtown. Bob Norman's piece really brings out voices of people who have suffered the effects of the city's assault on the homeless in a way most people don't want to comfort. City Commission returns in just over 30 days!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Introducing The Mini-Comics

We're gearing up to the fall, and another attempt to pass Homeless Hate Laws in Fort Lauderdale. Here's the first of a series of Mini-comics for Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs being made to wake people up to how the criminalization of homeless hate laws is affecting the people of Fort Lauderdale.

Print out these mini comics and fold them up!

More mini-comics coming soon! 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Recess Updates

Hate Law Can Kicked Into The Fall

Summer recess for City Commission is nigh. This means that at best, any new Homeless Hate Laws, as originally proposed in January or otherwise, will not likely be voted on and enacted prior to September.

Unfortunately, although the opportunity to use a public platform to speak about the criminalization of the homeless will abate, attacks and oppression against unwanted elements downtown is sure to last all summer long as always. Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs will be sharing every Friday and offering educational workshops on civil rights and other topics coming soon to Stranahan Park.

Locked Out of Stranahan

Since the fence went up around Stranahan Park, this front gate keeps getting locked during park hours, at least 3 times  in the past week. But no one knows who, not the Chief of Police or the City Attorney. Vigilante locksmiths?

Confusion Over Private Property Ordinance

Contrary to a recent article at Broward New Times, the City Attorney has confirmed that the first of the new Homeless Hate Laws, the private property in public space ban, is being enforced. However it does seem to be true that so far this law has not been used on anyone. Rampant theft and disposal of homeless property by police, city works employees, security, and volunteers in the Stranahan Park area continue as usual.

Fallout From Last City Commission's Gay Marriage Resolution

Mayor Jack Seiler may be popular amongst the city status quo, but he's earned the wrath of another powerful interest in the greater Fort Lauderdale area. His scornful downvote for a completely symbolic gay marriage resolution at last week's City Commission puts him at odds with a political movement growing more powerful every year both locally and nationally. On a completely unrelated note, did you know that Jack is up for re-election in 17 months?

Finally, kudos to homeless advocates in Pensacola. After recently launching a permanent homeless camp from a small bitcoin fortune, and successfully defending it from the City's best attempts to shut it down, the Pensacola establishment is finding itself even further from the side of justice this week. Occupy Pensacola's lawsuit stemming from their eviction in 2011 was re-opened by a federal appeals court. Escambia county's malfeasance and neglect with the way they treat their impoverished residents has never been more glaring. Did we also mention their jail recently exploded?

They've proved that the system in Florida can be held to account for discriminatorily destroying homeless people's rights. We'll keep that in mind. 2 months of resistance to homeless hate laws...many more to come.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Stranahan Park...Public or Private?

The Hate Laws are still in hiding for the  month of June. So we thought we'd take some time to settle an annoying and chronic question: "Is Stranahan Park a public park?"


A Brief History of Stranahan Park

For thousands of years the Tequesta people lived in South Florida, but disease brought by the Spanish and migration saw the area virtually uninhabited by the time of the "Seminole." The Seminole Indians were originally displaced tribes and marooned slaves who fled to Florida in the early 19th century. After the Seminole Wars, it is thought that only a few hundred Seminoles remained in the entire state, taking refuge in the Everglades. 1 2

When Frank Stranahan opened up his trading post (and thereby founding modern day Fort Lauderdale) in the 1890's, we see one of the first  historical mentions of Stranahan Park - it was where Seminole traders would make camp every winter when they came into town. 3

In 1914, Frank Stranahan gave the Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club their property and gave the rest of the block to the city for a park. In 1917, The Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club completed their clubhouse, and Stranahan Park was developed over the course of several years by filling the park with excess dirt from nearby Indian burial mounds. There were many amenities including shuffleboard courts, a bandstand, drinking fountain, and as legends tell, restrooms. 4

Not a whole lot of interest seems to have happened in Stranahan Park in the next 100 years. The Main Library is completed in 1984. At some point, the park becomes a focal point for chronically homeless people. And the Women's Club, aggressively seeking new funding for needed renovations, doesn't seem to like that. 5 6 7

In the 2000's, homeless advocacy and mutual aid groups fight off several attempts at being shut down, most notably "Arnold Abbott v. City of Fort Lauderdale." The City loses most of these battles. 8 9

Woman tackled and arrested for
questioning police brutality in park, 1.23.2014
However from 2009 on the city and establishment press seem to have it in for the users of Stranahan Park. The press goes absolutely hysterical over discovering that a released, convicted child killer is living there in 2010. More negative press comes out like clockwork as homeless people are increasingly discouraged from loitering outside the library or in the park. In 2011, the Women's Club completes over $200k worth of renovations, and in 2012, the Women's Club spearheads the creation of the "Stranahan Botanical Garden," and finally the City puts in a steel fence around the park in 2014. Day to day Stranahan Park is now mostly a ghost park. Homeless people who dare to go into it are regularly confronted by police and trespassed back out onto the street- witnessed as recently as last Friday. 10 11 12 13


Park closed by Women's Club, Friday 6.13.14
There is also a widespread  and extremely false belief being spread throughout downtown that Stranahan Park is owned by the Women's Club of Fort Lauderdale. Purveyors of these mistruths vary but include Park Rangers, FLPD officers, security guards, volunteers and members of the Women's Club. Now it is certainly possible that some of these people are being lied to by someone else but at least some of these people are blatantly lying to create the appearance that Stranahan Park is a private park that people can be segregated from based on the  interests of the Women's Club. Many of these rumors include very vague notions that the City sold the park to the Women's Club at some unspecified date. This is also categorically false.
Stranahan Park on Broward County Property Appraiser's website
This by no means explains everything going on with Stranahan Park. What right did the Women's Club have to convert the park into a "Botanical Garden" in the first place? Why did the City spend $80,000 on a fence for a public park whose gates are controlled by the Women's Club? Why do City officials continue to pretend to be blissfully unaware of all these facts?

Regardless, it's time to kill  this stupid, harmful lie with the truth. Would you like to contact the Fort Lauderdale Women's Club/"Friends of the Stranahan Botanical Garden," the FLPD, or the City of Fort Lauderdale and ask them why their people are spreading lies to prevent people from accessing a park that has been public for as long as the City has existed?

Fort Lauderdale Women's Club: 954-761-9407
Mayor Jack Seiler 954-828-5003, Twitter
Lee R. Feldman, City Manager, 954-828-5013, Twitter
Vice Mayor/Commissioner Rogers, 954-828-5004,
Commissioner Roberts (Also ex-Chief of Police)  954-828-5033,
Commissioner Trantalis 954-828-5923,
Commissioner DuBose 954-828-5004, Twitter

Police Chief Frank Adderly: (954)828-5590,
Twitter for FLPD & Police Chief Frank Adderly

That's all for now, see you in the commons!