Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Xmas Sharings, Ray Is Free

Love Thy Neighbor's Wednesday sharing will go on as usual on Christmas Eve  at 5:30 in front of the Bahia Mar hotel in the Beach.

Rebel food sharers including Reverend Mark Sims & Reverend Gail Tapscott will be doing Christmas lunch on Christmas Day at noon at Stranahan Park.

Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs will be hosting its somewhat annual "Non-Consumerist Really, Really Free Market" the day after Christmas at their regular Friday time, 4:30, in Stranahan Park. Bring holiday leftovers, unwanted gifts, and warm clothes for the extra-sized sharing. 

And of course, all these sharings will be quite legal thanks to Monday's court hearing.

The other good holiday news is that Ray Cox was released from jail last week. It will probably not come as a surprise to anyone that his long stay was a typical result of our unjust court system.  With the Judge refusing to lower his bail or release him on his own recognizance, Ray was looking at sitting in jail until February to get a trial date, so he pled no contest and was given time served. 

While injustice still prevails in Fort Lauderjail, it is a bit of a relief to know that no homeless hate law fighters will have to sit in jail through Christmas. If only that could be said of all people whose activities have been criminalized by Fort Lauderdale's Homeless Hate Laws. Cheers everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

City Doesn't Want to Enforce Its Stupid, Pointless Laws

After months of insisting on the "rule of law" needing to be enforced, the City had written itself into a Dickensian corner this week. By voting on appealing  the ruling that created the injunction against the sharing ban at last week's Commission meeting, the City was essentially asking the court to re-instate the sharing ban during the very height of the "charitable" holiday season. So at the latest hearing for Chef Arnold's lawsuit against the City, their attorneys made one huge conciliatory step back and proposed a further 45 day amnesty for sharing food in Fort Lauderdale.

While Mayor Magic Jack's heart has probably not grown noticeably, his ability to understand the nuance of selective enforcement seems to have developed somewhat.

It may seem like a common sense public relations move on behalf of the City, but it's also one of the biggest concessions they've made when it comes to the implementation of their anti-homeless laws. Originally proposed in late January 2013, they hit very few snags or delays all year long for most of these ordinances. But now the sharing ban will still be un-enforceable over a year after it was originally pitched.

It also begs the further, obvious question, which is that if the sharing ban is too crass and odious to enforce through Christmas-time, how is the rest of the year any different? It certainly won't be any less fair, nor are homeless people somehow less needy the other 11 months of the year.

Protests against sharing ban continue 12.20.14
Perhaps even more glaring is the farcical way in which the City insists they can reach a compromise on this issue...with Arnold Abbott. Not the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, nor any of the dozens of other people who are sharing food with the homeless downtown with little regard for City ordinances, or, most of all, the homeless people who need this aid in the first place.

It really goes to show how apathetic, disengaged, and facile the City is that, after all these months, they continue to act like this entire dispute involves one person alone. More than anything it proves that this law is doomed to failure.

More court updates and info about sharings downtown during Christmas coming up next.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Is The Sharing Ban Back?

Homeless advocates had a confusing past 24 hours as a couple of news reports surfaced that the sharing ban is maybe a thing again.

At this point there is a still a lot of uncertainty, but Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs' Friday sharing went on as if everything was normal. So far it appears that if enforcement is going to resume it will hopefully wait until another court hearing in the Arnold Abbott case, which will take place some time on Monday. Will Van Netta, who was cited for sharing food at Food Not Bombs on November 14th, will also have his first court hearing Monday.

The confusion appears to be a result of the City's decision to appeal the previous court ruling Wednesday night at the City Commission. See Commissioner Dean Trantalis' conciliatory statement against appealing the case from Wednesday:

Another Lawsuit Filed

Reverend Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale has also filed a lawsuit against the City's sharing ban. Here's some of their press release from this week:

As a minister in a denomination that provides a spiritual home and a social justice forum for both believers and non-believers, Rev. Tapscott and Rabbi Silver think that her suit will bring some slightly different perspectives that will add to and enhance the scope of the suits already filed on behalf of other plaintiffs such as Arnold Abbot of Love Thy Neighbor, Rev. Canon Mark Sims and Rev. Dwayne Black. Although Rev. Tapscott has not been arrested or cited in relation to laws prohibiting public food sharing with the homeless citizens, she has put herself in a position to be cited and she fully intends to continue to exercise her moral right to act out of compassion for the less fortunate into the future. Rev. Tapscott and her attorney Rabbi Silver are also acting out of concern for the right of those not protected by religious affiliation to feed the hungry, They also believe that for many people on the street, especially veterans, churches and for that matter any enclosed space may not be a safe place in which to receive help.

 Broward's local Quakers' organization, The Fort Lauderdale Friends Meeting, also put out a statement to the City in opposition to the ban.  Read it here. Expect more news about the status of the sharing ban and further expected lawsuit filings on Monday.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Besieged City Can Only Hope for A New Year

As the year draws to a close, the City will be spending its time preparing for a long and  probably costly court battle over the sharing ban. It also faces the possibility of continuing disruptive street protests in downtown Fort Lauderdale as a result of the nation's crisis with unaccountable police killings.

Final City Commission of the Year 

The City will be voting on 2 consent motions this Wednesday at  City Hall at 6 pm,  one to appeal the court order to stay enforcement of the sharing  ban, and another to hire a law firm to represent the  City in Arnold P. Abbott and Love Thy Neighbor Fund, Inc. v. City of Fort Lauderdale, which also includes Pastor Mark Sims & Dwayne Black. 

As it stands the injunction against the sharing ban is still only good until January 5th. Further court hearings could make these injunctions more or less permanent as the cases proceed, but this has not yet happened.

Shut It Down Round 2

As food sharings downtown return to a somewhat normal state, the status quo in downtown has not. For the 2nd Saturday in a row, protesters angry with the  lack of accountability for killer cops and a racially biased criminal justice system took to the streets. While the protest mostly centered around Las Olas and Broward Blvd's, the situation was much more unusual due to the Winterfest Boat Parade going on at the same time. 2 protesters were arrested and the protest was eventually forced off the street after marching down Las Olas Way alongside Riverwalk, paralleling but not blocking the Boat Parade on the New River.

In yet another unusual collaborative effort for Fort Lauderdale, Dream Defender, Anonymous, and Food Not Bombs activists worked together on this protest. Besides signs damning the biased system that has let cops like Darren Wilson and Joe Pantaleo walk free there were many messages  to the City for its discriminatory homeless policies. After the march ended, Food Not Bombs led a rowdy celebration of "Shoe Day," and many shoes were thrown at the Mayor and killer cops alike. 

The result was the 7th straight week of unrest aimed at the City of Fort  Lauderdale that dominated the evening news and has taken a huge bite out of the City's tourism and holiday oriented image.

No new plans by the Dream Defenders or other #shutitdown protesters have been announced so far, but "Christmas Is Cancelled" may well extend to New Years' downtown. As it stands now the sharing ban could be enforced again in just over 3 weeks.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#ShutItDown & The Mystery of the Limbo Cases

On Saturday December 6th, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs was headed to one of its weekly protests against sharing ban supporters downtown when we caught wind of a hastily-organized protest for  Eric Garner at the Federal Courthouse.

True to form, this assembly went street to street and shut down traffic for 3 hours or so. This included in front of many of the establishments we have been protesting, such as YOLO.  We were really glad to participate, as the lack of justice over police killings against people of color is completely outrageous. It was also a welcome sight to see even more people protesting in downtown Fort Lauderdale over the inequities and disenfranchisement that is built into our society.

We can only hope that homeless people, black communities, and all disenfranchised peoples of Fort Lauderdale benefit from the new plateau of dialogue we've reached this fall. Some of the leaders of this protest have said they
will gather again at 4:30 pm at the County Courthouse on Monday.

The Mystery of the Limbo Cases
The news  around Chef Arnold's case Wednesday was kind of confusing. The City never formally filed charges against him.

It actually turns out almost everyone ticketed for sharing food had not been charged. Even many of the 8 arrested at the DDA office over a month ago have simply not had trespassing charges filed against them yet. 

The takeaway here is that the City seems to be going it alone. The FLPD has not shown much enthusiasm for enforcing the ban and the courts seem to have absolutely no interest in prosecuting someone over it. This situation is actually not that unusual - the vast majority of laws that criminalize homeless activity are for the purpose of INTIMIDATION. 

For example, the police do not try to arrest absolutely everyone for sleeping on the streets, or peeing in the bushes. But many people are intimidated and  harassed from being homeless in certain areas because of the threat of arrest for these activities. The same has been the case for the sharing ban. Many sharing groups were intimidated into shutting down or changing their operations, and it now turns out that those that  resisted the law will face even fewer consequences than expected. This is not to say that food sharers will not have to deal with their tickets, but the mishandling of cases and growing lawsuit challenges seems to keep making things worse for one entity and that is the City of Fort Lauderdale.


With that in mind: We welcome you all to Shoe Day next Saturday as part of #christmasiscancelled ! Shoe Day is an annual anti-holiday celebrated by Food Not Bombs folk by going out in public with posters of famous tyrants and throwing shoes at them. This year will be a bit special - we'll be doing an "All-Fort Lauderdale" edition with posters of the local bureaucrats who have become notoriously despised for their  anti-homeless policies the last few months, and bring them to the Winterfest Boat Parade downtown. This will be a really fun one as public participation in Shoe Day (in this case, getting party-goers downtown to throw shoes at the Mayor and his croneys) makes it one of the funnest protests in South Florida. Take a Shoe to Tyranny next Saturday to #resisthomelesshatelaws  !

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Big Changes at Sharing Ban's 1 Month Mark

City Website on Monday afternoon
As many are already aware, Chef Arnold's lawsuit against the sharing ban got a hearing yesterday which resulted in a 30 day lift of enforcement against outlaw food sharers.

Sharing food downtown can resume as usual until January 2nd, 2015, or so, and some groups are already announcing their return to Stranahan Park this week. For all its furor, the sharing ban's first incarnation only lasted 32 days (Yay!)

This also effectively ends the hunger strike for the seven, but it may be safe to assume, since the sharing ban may return, that these strikes could return.

The other big stir of the week was that Anonymous announced #OpLiftTheBan on Monday and almost right away used a DDOS attack to bring down fortlauderdale.gov and jackseiler.com .

While the legal hearing that ended the sharing ban probably would have happened the next day regardless, the sharing ban fight has dominated the local news so far this week. Since Chef Arnold's first criminal court hearing and the Broward County Continuum of Care Board meeting are both this morning, Wednesday, this trend may well continue.

Viva La Resistance
Christmas is Cancelled on Las Olas 12.2.2014

No doubt, the lift on the sharing ban may quell some of the public outrage against the City of Fort Lauderdale.

Note however that Anonymous' #OpLiftTheBans declared  hack  attacks would continue if  the panhandling and camping ban were  not lifted as well. Presumably their campaign continues.

Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs and other activists have also pledged to continue to use protest and direct  action downtown to pressure businesses to oppose the sharing ban and other Homeless Hate Laws, or at least stop  supporting them. This was the case Tuesday night as protesters braved the rain, rowdy drunks, and teeming crowds of "Christmas on Las Olas" to bring revellers the  message of "CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED."

Hundreds of people were made aware of the fact that many of the properties and businesses hosting "Christmas on Las Olas" have uncomfortably close ties to the Downtown Development Authority and other policy makers that created the sharing ban. Perhaps most remarkably, some people there actually seemed interested to hear about it regardless of the festivities. The 15 or so protesters did not get arrested, have beer  thrown at them, or any of the things you might expect when telling large groups of party-goers that "Christmas is Cancelled."

Food Not Bombs will be continuing protests downtown, even while the sharing ban is not being enforced, to convince the "downtown business interests" that the Mayor holds so dear to get rid of this monstrosity completely. FNB's first legal food share in 6 weeks will be Friday.

More news later on...we have some early morning bureaucracy to get to.