Monday, October 3, 2016

Sharing Ban Ruling Met with Dismay, Garlic Bread

The following is a statement from Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs after its sharing ban lawsuit was dismissed last Friday.


In 2014, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed many "homeless hate laws," the last of which was a ban on sharing food in public spaces within city limits. A series of lawsuits have delayed enforcement of this law for almost 2 years. One of those lawsuits was filed by Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs. We have been sharing food downtown in Strahanan Park for about 10 years. Like Food Not Bombs chapters all over the world, we do this as an act of solidarity with the marginalized homeless people of Fort Lauderdale, and to protest the greed and militarism that prevents equity needed for the poor and oppressed people of the nation and the world. 

A Recent Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs Sharing
On Friday, the judge presiding over our food-sharing-as-protected-free-speech case finally responded to the parties' motions for summary judgment, dismissing ours and granting those of the defendants'. Fort Lauderdale, and indeed the entire federal court system, now has a fresh court victory against the rights of homeless and homeless advocates. 

Hours later, Food Not Bombs volunteers and homeless folk shared hot soup and garlic bread under the gazebo inside Stranahan Park as the rain fell. Some of those arrested in 2014 still have active criminal cases dragging on to this day. As the rain tapered off, we talked about the uncertain future ahead. 

The world didn't exactly stand still in the last 2 years. The federal government has released several briefings in an attempt to discourage cities from criminalizing homelessness. So far there's not much indication that that is curbing the City of Fort Lauderdale's habits. Commissioner Dean Trantalis has actually said on a few occasions at public county meetings over the summer that he does not think the laws are working and he would like to have them repealed.

Food Not Bombs & friends
on a walking tour of downtown last weekend
There are still other legal challenges for the sharing ban and it may be difficult to enforce the sharing ban law at this time in spite of the ruling. The City has not released any updates so far about enforcement of the sharing ban.

In the end, the Judge ruled that our food sharings simply don't qualify as first amendment activities. This is a peculiar notion. Food Not Bombs and other activists have joined together at food sharings to show solidarity with the oppressed, and to express outrage over an inequitable status quo, for a decade now. The messages, solidarity, and actions that take place in Stranahan Park continue to reverberate across Broward County and the state of Florida.

We can't say for certain anything about the ongoing legal status of our sharings at this time. Besides Fridays at Stranahan, it's theoretically possible the Sistrunk Sharing could be affected as well, which takes place this coming Wednesday. For now we continue to encourage the rebel food sharers of South Florida to continue to visit Stranahan Park. 

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