Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Conscienceless City Commission Passes Camping Ban

Conscienceless...rude...amoral...disrespectful...apathetic...conceited...wrong. City politicians would like to ascribe these traits to those in opposition of Fort Lauderdale's wave of homeless hate laws, but it was the City Commissioners themselves who carried themselves in this fashion last night.

One after another, homeless people and homeless advocates talked about the suffering, anguish, despair, and anger that they have experienced in the City of Fort Lauderdale at last night's City Commission. A number of them also expressed extreme displeasure at the City Commission's reaction - boredom, apathy, and annoyance. This is not even a little unusual for the City's finest public servants but was perhaps remarkable in face  of  the tragic and moving testimony from those that spoke against the camping ban, which will now take effect sometime in mid-October.

Commissioners got argumentative with some speakers but for most said nothing at all, and when all was said and done, rushed to a second vote without even a momentary discussion amongst themselves. As usual, they were in scarce, but quality company; perhaps all of 4 people came to voice support for the  camping ban, including Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce's Courtney Crush, who un-ironically came dressed as Cruella Deville.

Besides the camping ban, which will allow the FLPD to stick violators in jail for 60 days or more starting next month, the City now has 4 remaining meetings this year to implement a sharing ban which is intended to wipe out the majority of food aid providers in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Please stay tuned to this site about upcoming projects to fight back  against the City's plans, including a community forum on these issues tentatively planned for October 18th.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

9.3.14 Recap, "We Love Homeless Hate Laws"

On September 3rd, 2014, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed amendments to the public indecency code and the storage on public property law on second hearing. They also unanimously sent the new panhandling expansion and camping ban in downtown to a 2nd hearing that will take place on September 17th.

They represent 4 out of 5 laws that the city announced at the beginning of the year. The last is a law first proposed as a series of preposterous bureaucratic obstacles to prevent practically anyone from consistently sharing food for  the homeless in downtown. You know, in consistent enough to keep them alive and healthy.

If this writer were to think of a word to describe the atmosphere at this commission, it was "tantrummy." Practically everyone supporting these laws felt the need to explain to everyone how much they cared about the homeless... before then explaining why they want them to stay as far away from them as possible and that they feel perfectly entitled to deprive anyone who doesn't obey their laws of the right to sleep, eat, or urinate. Good for them. Many homeless advocates were in a bit of a huff as well - one was threatened with expulsion, and virtually all persons opposing the anti-homeless laws received a stony silence from the city commission, even when directly asked questions about laws beings discussed. Comment times were also mysteriously shortened 1 minute each after Raymond Cox's filibuster effort at the last meeting.

5 months of resistance at these meetings seems to have worn everyone a little thin on patience to hear about the terrible suffering they are creating for actual, real people in downtown...unfortunately there's a lot more to come. It remains to be seen how well the enforcers of these laws can shield themselves from the consequences of these actions.

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!